HAMILTON, ON – In the wake of considerable controversy around a decision to close forensic pathology for Niagara, Hamilton and surrounding communities, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) today is calling on area MPPs, regardless of their political stripe, to unite and speak up to stop the closure.
Dave Murphy, president of CUPE 7800, representing Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) staff is urging the region’s Conservative members of parliament: Sam Oosterhoff, Toby Barrett, Will Bouma, Sylvia Jones and Donna Skelly, to speak out against the closure. “All of their constituents will be adversely affected as trials and death investigations slow down,” says Murphy.
About 1,300 medical-legal autopsies and investigations into sudden or suspicious deaths a year are conducted at the HHS forensic pathology unit. These cases were planned to be transferred to Toronto. Area pathologists, police, crown prosecutors, funeral home operators, area media, CUPE and the NDP (opposition) leader, have come out against closure. All have expressed serious concerns about the impacts and fears of significant delays in autopsies, investigations and trials.
The decision is also dogged with allegations (which have been reported by media) that the closure is retribution-related to an ongoing investigation before the province’s death oversight council.
There are many very good reasons why this closure decision must be rescinded, said Murphy. “This pathology unit is Ontario’s second-busiest service. It will become busier once the recommendations from The Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes System are implemented.”
Also, the strategic plan for Ontario’s Death Investigation System (2015 to 2020) sets out this objective: “Expanded and improved regional service delivery capacity with more cases being managed locally/regionally.” The Hamilton hospital pathology unit currently does death investigations, including homicides, pediatric deaths and overdoses. There are three full-time forensic pathologists in Hamilton, in addition to a team that includes recently hired autopsy technicians.
“Toronto cannot be the centre for efficient delivery of these time-sensitive health and investigative services,” says Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU). “In the end, this move will be more costly, police investigations and trials will slow, and the objectives to improve regional death services will be out of reach. We hope that Conservative MPPs will speak up before it is too late.”
For further information, please contact:
Dave Murphy, President, CUPE 7800, 905-518-5218
Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE, 416-884-0770
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications, 416-559-9300, [email protected]