Martha Fernandez, who was a prisoner at VSPW, died on Monday, December 12, 2005 after having been treated in the emergency room of Madera Community Hospital. Her body was transported to her family in Watsonville and they proceeded to schedule a funeral for Friday December 16th. Immediately after the funeral, the mortuary informed the family that they could not bury Ms. Fernandez because they had not received a signed death certificate. The family was, of course, extremely upset. The family, which is of immigrant background with limited English knowledge, not only suffered the unexpected death of their daughter but were also unable to bury their loved one in a timely, compassionate manner.
A family member and a CCWP advocate contacted officials at VSPW and Madera Community Hospital to determine how to obtain a signed death certificate as quickly as possible. Over the course of the next three days, they were shifted from one person to another and to many different people within each agency. It wasn?t until several days after Martha had died, on December 19 that the family received the signed death certificate and were able to bury her, an inexcusable delay.
CCWP has been actively publicizing this appalling case, pointing out the likelihood that Ms. Fernandez?s immigrant background and her family?s limited English skills impacted on the type of treatment she received after her death. While we have received indications that VSPW is concerned about the negative publicity, to date we haven?t received an official letter taking responsibility for the problem and clarifying what the procedure will be in the future.