The state’s chief medical examiner told lawmakers Friday that his budgetary shortfall will cost his office its national accreditation and threatens its performance.
The state's fiscal year isn't even halfway over, and Dr. James Gill already knows he's got a $275,000 hole in his budget -- mostly because he's understaffed and needs to pay overtime to keep up.
Autopsies are up 60 percent in the past few years. Investigations are up, but staffing is down by 20 percent. He's got 40 people. He needs 50.
In testimony to lawmakers, Gill said being understaffed could have serious consequences.
"If we don't have enough staff, and we release the wrong body, you can imagine the lawsuit that's going to happen from that," he said.
It also means more everyday problems.
"Right now, our medical records are behind 200 reports," Gill said. "They get calls and requests from police, from doctors, from families, and they send those reports out. Right now, there's a backlog of 200 of those."
Gill also said he fears losing his national accreditation -- something the governor's office has seemed to downplay. But Gill thinks it's important. Accreditation lets the government know it's getting its money's worth, and it gives the public a sense that the office can be trusted, he said.
"Would you want to go to a hospital or a blood bank and get a blood transfusion from a hospital or a blood bank that's not accredited?" Gill asked. "That they can't meet the minimal standards for safety and for death investigations, in our case? No."
Gill wants the state to fill his funding gap this year and eliminate it next year. Meanwhile, the governor's office said it will consider his requests going forward.