CUPE 7800 has learned that Hamilton’s forensic pathology unit is closing hastily at the end of March, months earlier than the original proposed and controversial closure in July.
The decision to end forensic autopsies at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is already riddled with “controversy, equivocations and contradictions that verge on deception. Now this early, rushed closing – on March 31 – is more than suspicious. It is evident that those who made this ill-thought out decision want to shutdown any scrutiny on the bungling and fumbling that’s gone on. And that should not be allowed to happen,” says Dave Murphy President of CUPE 7800.
There are many conflicting accounts of why one of the province’s busiest forensic pathology units that conducts more 1,400 autopsies a year, is being shut down.
“Something must be done to get at the truth of this fiasco. There must be an independent inquiry to find out why this folly of a decision was made in the first place. Why the solicitor general is in the Legislature saying things that contradict her own ministry and the death oversight council, is more than concerning.”
An independent inquiry “would clear the air on the motivations for the closure,” Murphy says. “But equally important an impartial inquiry would identify the implications of shuttling bodies from Hamilton/Niagara to Toronto.”
In February, CUPE 7800 and CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) alerted the community that forensic autopsies from Niagara were by-passing the Hamilton pathology unit and heading for Toronto.
Concerns about the unit’s closure include, longer turnaround times for autopsies, delays in police investigations, officers needing to travel to Toronto in homicides and in the sudden deaths of young children. The closure of the unit also means that McMaster University will be the only medical school in Ontario without a local training facility for forensic pathology.
OCHU President Michael Hurley has consistently raised the issue that the consolidation of forensic pathology services in Toronto contradicts the strategic plan for Ontario’s Death Investigation System, which calls for more cases being managed locally.