FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was notified by the National Association of the Medical Examiners on Wednesday that they had lost full accreditation. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has been downgraded to provisional status. The office has until September of 2017 to show sufficient progress in correcting their deficiencies in order to be eligible for full accreditation again. if those deficiencies are not corrected by September, the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner would lose the National Association of Medical Examiners’ Accreditation completely.
According to officials, the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has four phase two deficiencies. Phase two deficiencies are considered major and any phase two deficiency results in the loss of full accreditation. Officials say three of these deficiencies relate to inadequate staffing (medical examiners, investigators and medical record staff) and one is due to inadequate refrigerated body storage space.
The four phase two deficiencies are:
- The medical examiner staff is of insufficient size which results in medical examiners being required to perform more than 325 autopsies per year. In order to not exceed the 325 autopsy limit, they would need to hire two more medical examiners.
- There is insufficient technical staff (investigators) to cover the daily caseload for investigations 24/7.
- There is insufficient non-technical staff coverage to handle the daily caseload for records keeping.
- There is insufficient refrigerated storage space to accommodate the number of bodies and their handling during usual and peak loads.
The office allegedly has six phase one deficiencies. Phase one deficiencies are considered minor and an office is allowed up to 15 phase one deficiencies.
The six phase one deficiencies are:
- The medical examiner staff is of insufficient size that results in medical examiners being required to perform more than 250 autopsies per year. The office would need three more medical examiners to not exceed the 250 autopsy limit.
- 90% of reports of postmortem examinations are not completed within 60 days from the time of autopsy. Officials note approximately 85% of postmortem examinations are completed within 60 days and over 90% of reports are completed within 90 days, which avoids a phase two deficiency.)
- The majority of the medical investigators who have worked in the office for over five years are not Registered Diplomats or Board Certified Fellows of the American Board of Medical Death Investigators.
- There is insufficient non-technical staff coverage to handle the daily caseload for data analysis. Officials recommend bringing another IT staff member on board, who was lost due to a lay off.
- There is insufficient funding provided to each licensed professional employee for office approved and professionally required continuing education.
- A temperature alarm for a refrigerator was unplugged.
The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s office is working to correct the staffing and facility deficiencies. Officials say some of the vacant technical and non-technical staff positions have already been refilled. They say work on a new refrigerated storage space is being put out to bid in March. Officials believe the only anticipated remaining hurdle that would prevent the office from regaining full accreditation is the need for two more medical examiners.
In order to correct these deficiencies, officials recommend:
- adding three new medical examiner positions to correct the autopsy/medical examiner phase one and two deficiencies. In order to correct only the phase two deficiency, the office would need only 2 additional medical examiners.
- refilling vacant medical legal investigator and laboratory assistant positions to bring the staffing up to prior levels, which would satisfy the technical staff deficiency.
- refilling vacant clerical support staff to help address the medical records deficiency, which would satisfy the non-technical staff deficiency.
- converting a storage area into more refrigerator space for remains. The design is complete, but the project will be put out to bid on March 1, 2017.
- using the grant the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner received to help support the medical investigators to become Board Certified Fellows of the American Board of Medical Death Investigators.
Accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners means an officer performs sound and timely death investigations. Loss of accreditation means that an office cannot meet the minimal standards of practice for death investigation. As of January 1, 2017, there were 90 offices accredited by the National Association of Medical Examiners.
The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is scheduled to testify at the legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriation’s hearing on February 23, 2017.