Office of Chief Medical Examiner Loses Full National Accreditation

The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said it has lost its full national accreditation.

Officials from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said the National Association of Medical Examiners notified the local office that it has been downgraded to provisional status and has until September 2017 to show sufficient progress to correct deficiencies related to inadequate staffing and inadequate refrigerated body storage space.

The office said it is working with state officials to fix staffing and they have filled some vacant positions.

They are also working with state agencies on facility issues and work on a new refrigerated storage space will be put out to bid in March.

"The only anticipated remaining hurdle that will prevent the OCME from regaining full accredittaion is the need for two additional medical examiners," a statement from the OCME says.

In November 2016, the officials from the medical examiner's office said they were in danger of losing accreditation because of budget cuts and staffing levels. 

The significance of the National Association of Medical Examiners accreditation is that it means an office performs sound and timely death investigations, according to the statement released on Tuesday.

"This instills confidence in the police departments, attorneys, and the families that are served.  Loss of accreditation means that an office cannot meet the minimal standards of practice for death investigation.  Mistakes by a medical examiner put people’s lives at risk, can result in the innocent imprisoned, and cost millions of dollars in civil claims," a statement of OCME says. 

Last year, Chief Medical Examiner James Gill received a letter saying that an increased workload and the number of autopsies each pathologist was performing would result in a “Phase II” deficiency, which would lead to the department losing full accreditation. 

“The OCME faces many challenges related to inadequate funding and insufficient staffing. Most notably, there are insufficient numbers of forensic pathologists, medicolegal death investigators, and clerical personnel for the volume of cases in Connecticut,” Barbara Wolf, chair of the inspection committee for the National Association of Medical Examiners, wrote in the letter last year. 

The OCME is scheduled to testify at the legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriation’s hearing on February 23, 2017.

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