Two additional medical examiners and newly completed renovations will strengthen service for Albertans at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).
The Government of Alberta is investing $1 million in the OCME. Of that, $790,000 will be used to pay for two more medical examiners in the province.
“Funding two more positions will help the OCME meet the demands of a growing population, along with the additional work of providing data regarding opioid-related deaths. We know this work is crucial to ensuring Albertans who have lost loved ones receive the information they deserve.”
The OCME currently has seven medical examiners, including newly appointed chief medical examiner Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim. An eighth has been hired and is expected to start work in April 2017. These additional positions will bring the total number of medical examiners in Alberta to 10. All medical examiners in the province are trained forensic pathologists. There are currently fewer than 50 practising forensic pathologists in Canada.
“I’m looking forward to adding two new medical examiner positions to our dedicated team. These medical examiners will help complete death investigations sooner, which can mean a lot to families going through a very tough and often tragic time of their lives.”
Funding will also be provided for a research officer to manage data and policy issues, including information sharing with stakeholders such as Alberta Health. This position will cost $95,000. Recruitment for the three positions will start as soon as possible. The remaining funding will be spent on supplies and services.
Renovations at the Edmonton location of the OCME have concluded. The $20.6-million, multi-year project included construction of a larger toxicology laboratory, expansion of the autopsy space and morgue and installation of improved biocontainment equipment for handling hazardous materials.
“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is an essential part of our justice system and often acts as a first point of contact for grieving families and friends. The improvements to its facility will ensure the OCME can continue its important service to Albertans in the years to come.”
The new toxicology laboratory can handle a larger number of tests to identify overdose deaths from drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil. The Alberta OCME is believed to be the first toxicology laboratory in Canada to positively identify carfentanil in human blood. The drug, which is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, is the most dangerous so far encountered by the OCME.
“The construction of a larger, more-up-to-date toxicology lab allows our team of toxicologists to significantly expand the work that we do, including developing new specialized tests for detecting synthetic designer drugs that may pose a risk to the public.”