Autopsy technicians leave state for higher pay further delaying autopsies statewide

Updated: Jul. 21, 2020 at 6:54 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The crisis with autopsies at the state crime lab boils down to money, according to officials.

Medical examiners assistants are walking out the door for higher paying jobs.

But the Department of Public Safety is working to fill vacancies with workers coming on board soon.

Coroners across the state are experiencing even longer waits for autopsies as the State Medical Examiners Office scrambles to find employees.

"The families shouldn't have to wait for those answers for two years. We need to do a better job," said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell.

Filling those jobs has been a focus for department head since taking office June first.

"What we're finding is other states are wanting our employees and personnel and so some of them are leaving for other opportunities in other sates that will pay more money," said Tindell.

July First the Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Mark LeVaughn State Medical Examiner sent a letter to all coroners citing continuing resignations of medical examiner assistants or autopsy technicians as the reason for the reduction in hours they accept bodies.

His staff consisted of only one autopsy technician to assist only two Forensic Pathologists for the entire state.

According to the Department of Public Safety, there are 26 vacant positions at the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory and Medical Examiner's Office.

Five full time technician positions are currently vacant.

There are three medical examiners on staff with one vacancy.

Two to three employees are currently assisting the medical examiners with autopsies.

As of Tuesday, 30 autopsies are awaiting to be conducted.

“I’ve heard it even before I got here from family members that have had loved ones that have died and they have been waiting for two years for an autopsy report and again that’s unacceptable,” added Tindell.

The department commissioner is a former legislator, prosecutor and appellate judge who has dealt with the issue of vacancies at the State Crime Lab and Medical Examiner's Office on different levels.

He said last year the legislature and governor signed appropriation to give the agency lump sum spending authority, giving them flexibility in managing positions and spending funds.

A forensic pathologist was hired for the coast office along with a contract assist which Tindell says will help with some of the case backlog.

Six employees are scheduled to start in the Medical Examiners Office in August.

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