Basham Funeral Care under investigation

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) A Bakersfield funeral home is under investigation by a state agency and under special orders from the Kern County Public Health Department.

Eyewitness News has learned Basham Funeral Care is the target of the probe, and some families say the problem has caused delays in laying loved ones to rest.

"We discovered a concern with the accuracy of documentation that was submitted with (death) certificates," Disease Control Director Denise Smith said. She said the Kern County Public Health Department has reported the concerns to the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau.

Meanwhile, the county is also taking action.

"We recommended that the facility's electronic access to death records, to process death records, be removed," Smith said. "As a result, the facility is having to submit all their documentation manually."

Basham owner John Basham told Eyewitness News on Wednesday that he could not provide an interview. But, he made some statements.

"As far as I know, there is not a problem," Basham said. "We are trying to work together to resolve everything. Basham is doing the best we can to resolve the situation."

Eyewitness News has learned at least a couple funerals or burials have been delayed by the new requirements.

Basham said the funeral home has worked with a few families on this, "and this has not been an issue," he said. He added the home takes great care of families throughout the service.

Smith says because Basham can't use the regular electronic record system, they must now submit documentation on paper.

"And, then we verify the information, and then they're being required to physically go to the doctor and have the doctor sign the certificate," Smith said. She said the county then verifies the doctor's signature, at which point the death certificate can be registered and a burial permit issued.

Eyewitness News has learned forged doctors' signatures could be an issue with Basham.

"Potentially that's one of the pieces of information that is potentially inaccurate," Smith responded.

Smith said the process being required does take more time, and the health department has requested at least 7 days to process the documents. She said they've asked Basham to let families know about the time-frame, and to plan funeral services accordingly.

Smith also said several local cemeteries have been alerted to the situation, and told they can contact Public Health if they have any questions about paperwork turned in by Basham.

Eyewitness News contacted the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau about the investigation, but a spokeswoman in Sacramento said the agency would not comment.

Smith, however, said the bureau would determine if there are violations, and make any recommendations on things like possible fines or penalties. It's not known how long an investigation could take.

In the meantime, the county health department will continue their special requirements for Basham.

"We're going to continue to process death certificates and permits manually so that we can ensure that families of these decedents in our county are receiving accurate, legal documents," Smith said. "And we'll keep doing that until the investigation is complete."