Medical Examiner's Office Fails Accreditation

Wednesday, July 1st 2009, 9:39 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office has failed accreditation.  A site inspection of the Oklahoma City and Tulsa facilities last month cited more than 40 deficiencies; assigning the lowest score a state agency has ever been given.  The Chief Medical Examiner blames years of neglect and underfunding.

The fate of Oklahoma's Medical Examiner's Office has been tumultuous.  Last year, the state medical examiner announced autopsies would no longer be conducted in Tulsa.  They'd have to be conducted in Oklahoma City to streamline the office and save money.  But, an outcry from Tulsa law enforcement reversed his decision.

"Today's decision to keep autopsies in Tulsa County will better serve the citizens and I appreciate that decision," said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris.

But now that the state agency has failed to meet accreditation standards, it's clear the money issues have continued.

According to a site inspection report from the National Association of Medical Examiners, their inspector found 22 Phase Two deficiencies and 19 Phase One deficiencies which the inspector says primarily involve space and personnel issues.

The inspector went so far as to note that the quality of investigations and autopsies is excellent, but the personnel have an excessive workload.

But still, the final score is well below the minimum needed for even a provisional accreditation.  According to the medical examiner's spokesperson, Cherokee Ballard, they expected a low score.

"It's the situation that we are put in. The building is old. The equipment is old. We don't have enough people. Our pathologists are doing too many autopsies. We need more," said Cherokee Ballard with the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office.

In fact, they say, because of this development the problems with underfunding and neglect of their office can no longer be ignored.           

"We need a lot and I think her report and her inspection outlines that perfectly," said Cherokee Ballard with the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office.

According to Ballard, the ME's office has complete confidence in the quality of their work and will continue doing autopsies and investigations.