Computer glitch delays funerals for Valley families' loved ones

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The pain and suffering of losing a loved one can be overwhelming.

And state officials aren't making it any easier.

Hundreds of families across Arizona have been forced to delay their funeral plans because of a computer glitch.

Valley grandmother Kathryn Gabbard lost her battle with cancer 10 days ago and her family members are doing their best to move on.

But the grieving process has been made more difficult, thanks to a glitch in the new computer software Arizona's Department of Health Services is now using to issue death certificates.

"We had arranged to have her cremated and for the past seven days, my mother has been lying on a cold slab in the funeral home waiting for her body to be disposed of the way she wanted and the way the family wanted," said Karl Gabbard by Skype, following his mother's death.

"It's hard enough to lose someone you love and then to be given the run around by the state over a computer program," said Gabbard. "It's hard. It just adds more to the burden."

The new software - called DAVE - the Database Application for Vital Events - officially launched October 2 as a way to streamline the death and birth certificate process by eliminating paperwork.

Instead, the system has hit several snags, creating a major backlog in the number of death certificates being issued, and forcing funeral homes across the state to put off cremations, and even set up mock funerals.

Sam Bueler is the funeral director of Wyman's Burial Chapel in Mesa.

He says he reached out to state officials weeks ago, asking them to delay rolling out the new software until it could be tested and more people could be trained. But DHS rolled out the new system anyway.

"It's been a ripple effect," said Bueler. "I don't think they realized how much of an impact it was going to have."

Stephanie Johnson has been waiting to cremate her father David, a Vietnam veteran who died Oct. 1 at the age of 75.

"Just the thought of him laying [sic] somewhere in a freezer -- they're not legally allowed to do anything with the body until that death certificate is signed," she said through tears.

What bothers her is knowing hundreds of families are in the same position.

"They're just stuck. They can't do anything. They can't go forward. They're just stuck waiting," she said.

Arizona’s Department of Health Services released this statement:

We know dealing with the loss of a loved one is a very stressful and difficult time. On October 7th, the Arizona Department of Health Services launched a new online death registration system which provides many benefits, including online ordering of birth and death certificates. The system will ultimately allow for permits to be issued more quickly. We’re aware of minor glitches that initially occurred at the launch of this new system. Resolving any issues is a top priority for the Department and we are working diligently to rectify the concerns, including expanding support staff and enhancing training until the issues are resolved. 

In order to respect the schedule of families and loved ones, the Department is working directly with funeral homes and physicians and has set up a 24/7 call center in order to clear any delays. We encourage any families that are experiencing delays or need expedited arrangements to contact ADHS and provide information by going online to azhealth.gov or by calling 602-542-1025 so that we can help resolve any issues.

We're told the biggest problem with the system has been that medical providers are unable to log into the new system.

If you're having a problem getting a death certificate for a loved one call 602-542-1025 or visit azhealth.gov.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

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