Autopsies delayed in Mississippi after lab technicians quit

National

BATESVILLE, Miss. (WREG) — Autopsies are being delayed by more than a week in some cases after a number of technicians at the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office quit.

A letter from the Medical Examiner’s Office sent to coroners said the resignations happened July 1. It didn’t address what prompted them.

Right now, the office has only an office administrator, one autopsy technician and two forensic pathologists for the entire state, according to the letter. It warns that the number of autopsies performed “will be drastically reduced” as a result.

“Three a day is what they’re averaging down there now,” said Panola County Coronor Gracie Grant-Gulledge.

Grant-Gulledge said the county is currently holding four bodies as they wait for autopsies, including those of a man and woman shot dead Sunday at a Panola County rap concert.

Grant-Gulledge said she was told Thursday the autopsies wouldn’t take place until sometime next week.

“From talking to the family today, when I told them that she’ll be going down tomorrow, but the autopsy will be next week, ‘We already got services set for Friday,”’ said Grant-Gulledge, relaying her exchange with the family of the woman who was shot. “I can’t help you. What are you gonna do if she’s not back?”

There have been backlogs at the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office for years.

In 2018, the office said it increased salaries in an attempt to be more competitive in hiring extra pathologists. Grant-Gulledge said higher salaries for technicians should also be considered.

“It wouldn’t matter how many pathologists they have doing autopsies. If you only have one tech processing everything, she can only do so much,” Grant-Gulledge said.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Medical Examiner’s Office, was contacted for information about how many technicians quit and how big the autopsy backlog was statewide, but there was no immediate response.

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