What got lost in the Coroner controversy

Bennet Omalu

Reacting to the high-profile resignations of two county pathologists, and their startling allegations that Sheriff Steve Moore interfered with their work, County Supes voted unanimously this week to sever the Coroner’s Office from the Sheriff and put it under the supervision of an independent, medically qualified Medical Examiner.

Well and good.

What got lost in the story is how poorly the San Joaquin County Coroner’s Office is run. The resignations and allegations sucked up so much oxygen the public may have overlooked the raft of inefficiencies RAM Consulting found.

• The Corner’s Office is under-budgeted.

• Officials don’t communicate well with each other or meet enough.

• The Coroner’s Office is not accredited by any of the national accrediting bodies. “Accreditation provides uniform measures of performance and outcomes. Accreditation also establishes objective standards and agreed upon best practices …”

• “Deaths that occur at a medical facility (i.e. under the care of medical professionals) do not require a scene visit,” but deputies make them anyway, wasting staff resources.

• Deputies are understaffed and poorly trained for death scene investigations. “The average education attainment of the deputies is a high school diploma,” the report says.  Deputies undergo an 80-hour training in Basic Death Investigation, but … “There is minimal continuing education training …”

• At the morgue, medical technicians are poorly trained. “The staff reports not having sufficient direct guidance by management.”

And much more. You can read the report yourself in this county agenda packet. The report starts on page 619.

Restructuring the Coroner’s Office is only half the solution. The other half involves far better budgeting, training, policies and procedures. If the consultant is right, the department is an under-performing mess.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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