L.A. County Coroner’s Office Workloads Could Threaten Accreditation: Sources

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A person from the Los Angeles County Coroner's office removes the body of a student who was killed in a vehicle versus pedestrian accident on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (Credit: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times)

The embattled Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner met all accreditation standards at the time of its last annual review in August, but showed some signs of potential problems because of a staffing shortage, according to the president of the National Assn. of Medical Examiners.

The department was short two medical examiners at the time of its last review, said David Fowler, president of the association, in an interview Saturday. If the department lost more staff or caseloads increased substantially, he said, workloads could threaten its accreditation.

The Medical Examiner’s office, which handles more than 8,500 cases a year, has been under scrutiny for substantial backlogs in processing cases. Currently, there are about 180 bodies in the county morgue waiting for processing, and toxicology tests can take more than six months to complete.

On Thursday, the county’s top medical examiner, Mark Fajardo, abruptly announced his plans to resign, saying that his office had not been given the resources it needed to do the job. County sources speaking on condition of anonymity have said there were concerns that the office could be in danger of losing its accreditation.

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