ME confirms: Jobs going to OKC
BY MICK HINTON World Capitol Bureau
Friday, January 04, 2008
2/15/08 at 4:35 AM
The medical examiner
adds, however, that staff
changes in Tulsa are
open to discussion.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The state's
chief medical examiner confirmed
Thursday that three employees in the Tulsa office have been told that
their jobs will cease at the end of
Dr. Jeffery Gofton said the employees, along with the one remaining pathologist in the Tulsa office,
were being offered positions in the
Oklahoma City office. Gofton said
March 31 is "a target date."
"Nobody was fired," he said.
"Rather, their positions would be relocated. The ball is back in their
court. If they want to continue, it would be in Oklahoma City."
Gofton told a Senate committee in
mid-December that he was considering halting the performing of autopsies in Tulsa for efficiency purposes.
Tulsa County District Attorney
Tim Harris, Tulsa police officials
and local funeral directors have expressed concern that such a move
would cause severe hardships for
the Tulsa area.
Harris and police officials worry
that the action will stifle court cases
because of a less-thorough examination of bodies or the need for pathologists to travel from Oklahoma
City for court appearances.
Funeral directors say it could delay services for the deceased.
Gofton said the Tulsa changes are
not a done deal.
"If individuals can put forth credible reasons as to why this would be a bad decision, it is up for discussion," he said.
Gofton said it is his decision as to whether the autopsy function should be transferred and that the matter has not been discussed by the
Board of Medicolegal Investigations, which oversees the
state Medical Examiner's Office.
Dr. Andrew Sibley, the only pathologist in the Tulsa office, could not be reached for
The Medical Examiner's
Office's Eastern District Office in Tulsa had a second pathologist who was the state's
deputy chief medical examiner until his retirement last
year, and a few years ago,
three pathologists worked in the Tulsa office.
Plans would leave four
medical examiner investigators in the Tulsa office, Gofton said.
Those investigators would
view and photograph bodies
and file their reports with pathologists in Oklahoma City.
Because of a shortage of
pathologists, the agency has
quit performing autopsies on
decedents older than 40 except in extreme cases, such
as homicides. Previously the
age cutoff was 50.
Harris said last week that he had written to lawmakers
to ask them for help, citing
public safety concerns and
saying the move would be
costly for Tulsa County law
Gofton said he has no intention of doing away with
the Tulsa office.
"That office is important to
us," he said. "We need the
ability to have an on-site facility to go to in emergency situations. We need to have a
Mick Hinton (405) 528-2465