Cash-Strapped Detroit Outsources Autopsies

Move will save Wayne County $1.5M over three years
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2011 9:30 AM CDT
Cash-Strapped Detroit Outsources Autopsies
In this Dec. 3, 2009 photo, Wayne County medical examiner chief investigator Albert Samuels opens the door to one of the morgue's refrigerated storage units in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

With bodies piling up and funding disappearing, Detroit has decided to save some money by outsourcing its morgue operations to the University of Michigan, Bloomberg reports. Detroit’s morgue is unusually busy, with five pathologists performing autopsies on 2,400 corpses a year. Earlier this year, it had 185 bodies stacked up in its refrigerator and a temporary trailer, their burials delayed either by paperwork or relatives who couldn’t pay to bury or cremate them.

Yesterday, the morgue proclaimed that it had worked through that backlog, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the situation is still uncomfortable—funding has fallen from $8.1 million in 2007 to $6.2 million, and the morgue’s staff has been cut from 52 to 31. The deal with the University of Michigan—which converts morgue pathologists into medical-school faculty—will save the county $1.5 million over three years, and, officials are hoping, improve the operation. “The old ways aren’t going to work anymore,” a county executive said. The morgue currently can't gain accreditation because the nearly 500 autopsies its pathologists conduct a year top the 325 maximum set by the National Association of Medical Examiners. (More morgue stories.)

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