Oklahoma ME's Office Loses Accreditation

Citing inadequate facilities and staffing levels, a national board has revoked the accreditation of the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office.

Wednesday, July 1st 2009, 5:47 pm

By: News 9


By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The State Medical Examiner's Office has lost its accreditation and that has some worrying how it could affect criminal trials.

This is the first time the medical examiner's office has lost its accreditation, according to Cherokee Ballard with the Medical Examiner's Office.

Inspectors toured the facility in April before they filed a report, which found problems from a lack of resources.

Many of the exam rooms at the Medical Examiner's office in Oklahoma City show its age. And while the age of the equipment is a concern of the National Association of Medical Examiners' report, the age of the building, which demand has outgrown, has raised even more alarm.

The Oklahoma City office is cited for no longer providing enough space for full staff, not enough room to perform more autopsies and no more space for case files.

"They're stacked in halls, stacked up to the ceiling. We've got them everywhere," Ballard said.

Where space isn't an issue, the number of employees is. Ballard said these are all things the ME's office has known about for years and has continuoulsy tried to get enough funding to fix.

"We're disappointed, but we certainly expected this to come," Ballard said.

The report states, "the office does quality investigations" "despite a personnel shortage." However, there needs to be major improvements such as doubling the morgue staff. NEWS 9's legal expert Irvin Box said that fact alone could affect current and future criminal cases.

"It can cast some doubt. It's something a defense attorney can, certainly in any type of case involving a critical evaluation by the ME, can say, 'look, you're an overworked medical examiner. Maybe this report isn't as proficient as it should be,'" Box said.

And while that's a concern for the ME's office, they plan to stay focused.

"We won't stop doing autopsies. That's not going to happen. Our good quality work will not stop," Ballard said.

The inspections happen every five years. Officials hope to get the accreditation back as soon as possible.

District Attorney David Prater said at this point he's not concerned that the report will hurt any of his cases. However, he said he still needs to examine the findings.

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