CUPE is calling on the provincial Conservatives to launch an independent review of the decision to close forensic pathology services in the Hamilton/Niagara region.
“There are too many troubling allegations surrounding the motivations behind the closure to forge ahead,” says Dave Murphy, president of CUPE 7800 which represents staff working at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), including in the pathology unit. “The decision should be halted while an independent review is conducted.”
The legitimacy of the decision to close the forensic pathology unit has been challenged by many respected voices in the community. Police, crown prosecutors, funeral directors and medical personnel have expressed serious concerns about the impacts, fears of significant delays in autopsies, investigations and trials, and signalled that the move may have many hidden costs.
“We ask the health minister to bring in a qualified, respected and independent person to review the decision. If it is the right decision, it will stand up to an independent review,” says Murphy.
The decision to close the unit contradicts the strategic plan for Ontario’s Death Investigation System (2015 to 2020) which articulates the objective of: “Expanded and improved regional service delivery capacity with more cases being managed locally/regionally.” The Hamilton hospital pathology unit currently does death investigations, including homicides, pediatric deaths and overdoses. There are three full-time forensic pathologists in Hamilton, in addition to a team that includes recently hired autopsy technicians.
“The closure of this unit will lead to costly delays in police investigations and trials. How can the Conservatives just close their ears to the chorus of respected voices calling for a reconsideration of the decision to shut down the second busiest pathology unit in Ontario?” asks Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE.