Medical examiner’s office anticipates high caseloads

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The medical examiner’s office plays an important role in Travis County, investigating all sudden or unnatural deaths. That’s a big job in and of itself, and it’s feeling an even bigger pressure. The chief medical examiner is stepping down next week, meaning the remaining doctors will have increased caseloads. Their office not only handles cases from Travis County, but from across the state, about 40 to 45.

“You want to make sure you don’t have too many autopsies per pathologist,” says Gerald Daugherty, Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 3.

The current facility is also too small. They’ve been approved to build a larger facility, but that won’t happen for a few years.

“Right now we are woefully inadequate with the space that we have,” said Daugherty. “We have obviously grown considerably in last 10 years, and we are in dire straights in regards to what we need to do an adequate job.”

The ME’s office is requesting Travis County Commissioners budget for hiring another pathologist. But Commissioner Gerald Daugherty says that would be expensive. He’d rather raise the cost for other counties to do business.

“If the price goes up then people generally start looking to go, perhaps I don’t need to have that contract with Travis County.”

Hays County Judge Beth Smith has sent autopsies to Travis County in the past. But she says paying a higher price would not deter her.

“No it wouldn’t,” said Judge Smith. “If we were asked by one of the detectives or detective sergeant or DA, we would.”

Commissioners will need to weigh these options and come up with a solution, before doctors’ say their caseloads become to heavy to handle. Daugherty says interviews will begin soon for a new chief medical examiner, and they hope to have the position filled by the end of the year.

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