Family ‘unable to grieve’ while awaiting death certificate turns to Ted

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – When Alexandra Dunn and Tracy Schneck’s mother died last August, the sisters had her cremated and planned to take her ashes to their favorite Florida vacation spot over the holidays.

Then her father, Bob Dunn, had a stroke days after Thanksgiving. The sisters thought he was getting better, but he died on January 1st at the age of 80.

“He was in the hospital for over a month and we were treated very well there,” said Schneck. “The Saturday before he was released, on New Year’s Day, they called and said I had to come up that he was going back to the acute side, so I went up and he died shortly thereafter. this evening.”

The family, still devastated by the loss of their mother, planned to cremate him as well.

“After my mom died, we talked about what he wanted, so we knew that’s what he wanted,” Schneck said. “We thought it would be settled between the hospital and the funeral home.”

In Texas, a person cannot be cremated unless the death certificate has been signed. Dunn’s children said they continued to wait for the doctor to sign it, but days passed and then weeks.

His daughter told us the funeral home went out of their way to get answers from the hospital and the doctor, and even gave them advice on who to ask if they called to make inquiries themselves.

“We mourn my mother. Now we mourn my father and now we have to wait,” she said. “It was a terrible feeling that we couldn’t do what he wanted to do. When the funeral home called us and told us what had happened, we were very upset because we thought that piece was done. almost angry (and) started calling the hospital, calling the doctor’s office, trying to get someone at the hospital who could help us.

Despite daily requests for an update, Schneck said they could not get a clear answer as to when the death certificate would be signed or what caused the delay. After 24 days of waiting, they contacted Ted.

“We were just sad about all of this and couldn’t mourn him,” she said. “When I was talking to my sister and I was really just stumped, she just kind of said, ‘Hey, let’s reach out. Let’s see what Channel 13 can do, you know? You’re helping people’ (and) once we did, it helped immensely.”

We contacted the hospital, HCA Clear Lake, who said they would take care of it that day, and called the family that evening. The next day the family had the signed death certificate.

An HCA spokesman told us it was an administrative error and that the doctor involved was “an independent member of the medical staff of HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake and a contracted hospital group.”

The spokesman told us that the independent physician who was required to sign the death certificate had recently left the state to practice elsewhere but had returned to Texas, so he had two account numbers.
The funeral home sent the request to the old account, the spokesman said.

After we got in touch, the hospital said they discovered the duplicate account issue and made sure the request went to the correct account and that the independent doctor signed it.

“The process of signing a death certificate can be complex and requires coordination between the hospital, the funeral home and the certifying physician,” the spokesman said. “Timeframes can vary as additional factors are added. We know the loss of a family member is a difficult time and our goal is to ensure the right doctor signs the death certificate accurately and as quickly as possible.”

Now, Schneck said she and her sister hope to travel to their mother and father’s favorite spot on Sanibel Island in Florida this spring to scatter their ashes.

“They were both great cooks,” she said. “He absolutely loved his grandchildren. He was a great dad.”

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Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. Family ‘unable to grieve’ while awaiting death certificate turns to Ted

Dais Johnston

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