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Hamilton County to conduct some autopsies for Franklin County coroner’s office

In Hamilton, Butler and Warren Counties recently more than one person has overdosed at the same place. These are called "double overdoses."
Ann Thompson
Hamilton County Coroner vehicle.

County commissioners this week dug into their $15-million contingency fund to find $486,000 to help the Franklin County Coroner’s Office through a staffing shortage.

Two pathologists left the office recently and two others intend to leave before April, according to Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz’s online statement.

Most of the money, $320,000, will cover the cost of an intergovernmental agreement with Cincinnati’s Hamilton County to conduct autopsies and provide other forensic pathology services, according to documentation provided by the county commissioners.

The county is also adding $100,000 to an existing $400,000 contract with Storer Mortuary Services for body transportation services. The contract estimates 3,000 annual one-way trips. Trips to Hamilton County are slated to cost $250 each way and trips within Franklin County cost $115 each.

The office handles about 1,700 postmortem examinations annually, according to documents found on its website.

To bring an end to the shortage, commissioners approved a yearlong contract with up to $66,000 in expenses with Merritt Hawkins, a firm that specializes in recruiting healthcare staff.

WOSU left a message for Dr. Ortiz seeking more information but did not receive a response.

The website for the office shows vacancies for a deputy coroner/pathologist, technicians and investigators.

In her online statement last week, Ortiz said, “We have found that the Franklin County Coroner’s office apparently is not immune from the Great Resignation.”

“The pandemic has shone a light on what matters most to people – health, family and friends,” the statement continues. “Individuals in all types of professions are seeking to lower their stress levels with lighter workloads, easier commutes and work-from-home options, all to create a better quality of life. I cannot fault my employees (two of whom commuted over four hours each day), who hope to work in smaller offices with fewer cases, from home and/or closer to home.”

A job description posted on the office’s website states deputy coroners/forensic pathologists are expected to perform 250 to 300 autopsies a year for a salary of around $250,000 annually.

The morgue technician and forensic investigator positions start at $21 an hour, while the pay for a lead forensic investigator is $60,000, the job descriptions state.

For more information and links to apply for the positions, visit https://coroner.franklincountyohio.gov/careers/open-positions.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.