Lubbock Co. invites other counties to share Medical Examiner cost - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/22/10

Lubbock Co. invites other counties to share Medical Examiner cost

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Lubbock County looks for a way to share costs of the medical examiner's office and relieve local taxpayers from some of that burden.  Monday, Commissioners approved a proposal that will go out to counties closest to Lubbock. Then, as time goes on, commissioners will offer places further and further away a chance to purchase autopsy services from Lubbock County.  

Some local counties have contracted with private businesses for autopsy services but commissioners think they can overcome that issue with time.  Below is the text of an official news release from Lubbock County.


NEWS RELEASE

Monday February 22, 2010

MEDICAL EXAMINER'S OFFICE

Lubbock County is charged with the responsibility of fully investigating sudden and unexplained deaths.   These statutory inquests provide Law Enforcement Agencies and the District Attorney with thorough analysis and interpretation of evidence as well as expert testimony. 

In August 2008, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center notified Lubbock County they were cancelling our contract for autopsy services. Dr. Beavers indicated that he would be leaving TTUHSC as Chief Medical Examiner.  This action would leave Lubbock County without a Medical Examiner.  Our options were limited and time was short.  We examined our options.  The closest Medical Examiner's Office at that time was in Tarrant County, so we analyzed of the cost and quality of services to contract "out of County" vs. "opening our own department".  Contracting 450 cases with another ME's office 300 to 400 miles from Lubbock would cost more, our cases would likely be a lower priority and the risk of losing critical evidence was clearly increased. 

Tarrant County Medical Examiner Pricing dated 10-01-08 indicated we would need to budget $6,000 to $10,000 per case totaling to $2,500,000 to $3,000,000 per year.

 The benefits of establishing our own facility far outweighed the option of utilizing another  office located out of town.  To help off-set our cost, we worked to establish a regional ME's office that would provide impeccable evidence for not only Lubbock County Courts but for surrounding West Texas Counties as well.  There was not a Texas State lLicensed Board Certified Forensic Pathologist in Lubbock at the time of Texas Tech's announcement.  Across the nation there are a very limited number of Board Certified Forensic Pathologists.  Fortunately Dr. Sridhar Natarajan, a former ME for Lubbock County, had interest in returning to Lubbock and was appointed as the Chief Medical Examiner in February of 2009.  This past October, we hired another Board Certified Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Masahiko Kobayashi who will help to facilitate our goal for a regional Medical Examiner's Office.   Our approval today to offer contracts to neighboring counties is the next step in achieving that goal.

Several South Plains Counties have indicated that they plan to continue to use another office that has recently opened in Lubbock.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of cases in West Texas and those decisions will not affect our projections. 

Bill McCay -- Lubbock County Commissioner, Precinct 1

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