Oklahoma Lawmakers Work On ME's Accreditation Problem

Monday, July 6th 2009, 1:46 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

TULSA, OK - Oklahoma legislators say help is on the way for the struggling Medical Examiner's Office.  Two representatives have taken up the issue and promise the problems that lost the office its accreditation will be resolved.

Crystal Brannon recently lost her mother and her brother.  She says getting through the pain of both of their deaths was difficult.

"I mean, I just have faith that they're both in heaven and that their work here on earth was done," said Crystal Brannon of Tulsa.

But then, she had to wait several months to get the results of their autopsies.  Her brother, Forrest, was 27, an Iraq War veteran and died suddenly in his sleep in January.  All she wanted to know was why.

7/2/2009  Related Story: Does The ME's Loss Of Accreditation Affect Cases?

"What if it had been not an accident and what if it had been something different? Then, how would I have been able to deal with that?" said Crystal Brannon.

After waiting five months, Brannon finally received his death certificate.  It showed his death was an accident.  But, Crystal still has questions.

"Why does it take five months to get a report back?" said Crystal Brannon.

Countless Oklahomans have stories similar to Brannon's all because the Medical Examiner's Office is so backlogged.  That's just one of the reasons the office lost its accreditation which is unacceptable to Representative Dr. Mike Ritze.

"We are overloaded with the Medical Examiner's Office. We are aware of it. We are putting our arms around it so to speak," said Representative Mike Ritze.

He and another state representative who is also a doctor, Doug Cox, say help is on the way.  As doctors and former deputy medical examiners, they both feel they can make the changes necessary to fix the ME's office.

"We want to fix it right. We want to do it right and that's where Dr. Cox and I came in and offered our services and our expertise to make it a fixable or usable situation for the future for our citizens," said Representative Mike Ritze.

Representatives Ritze and Cox are working with the Medical Examiner's Office to compile a list of needs.  They say the solution will be to expand their current offices, not build new ones.