Review sought over closing of pathology unit

Ontario chief coroner, Dr. Dirk Huyer. Glenn Lowson

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Calls were made this week for an independent review into a decision to close the Hamilton pathology department that serves Brantford and Brant County.

The department at Hamilton General Hospital is the second busiest of seven facilities in the province. It deals with about 100 autopsies and sudden-death investigations each year from Brantford and Brant, plus another 1200 from Haldimand, Hamilton, Niagara and Dufferin.

Insp. Scott Williams said the Brantford police service has yet to receive official notice about the department’s closing but conceded such a move would have a local impact.

“If this were to occur, we would be challenged, from an investigative point of view, a human resources point of view, and we would be impacted financially, as well.”

This week, the union that represents the workers in the Hamilton unit said the decision needs to be reviewed independently because of allegations that the two doctors who elected to close the unit were retaliating due to complaints made about them.

Dave Murphy, president of CUPE, Local 7800, said the decision was “poorly thought out” and flies in the face of the province’s plan for regional service delivery.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, said there’s no good economic basis for moving the work done in Hamilton to Toronto.

“It will shift the cost while causing significant and costly delays in police investigations and trials which are unaccounted for.”

Behind the decision to close the department are Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, and Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist. A statement from the Ministry of the Solicitor General expressed confidence in their decision.

Pollanen has said the move will save $3 million.

But others are linking the decision to the fact that a pathologist, formerly from the Hamilton department, laid a complaint about the Huyer and Pollanen with the Death Investigation Oversight Council. Other witnesses from the department testified in the resulting investigation.

So, the closure announcement, on the heels of the complaint, has drawn allegations of punishment from the top doctors.

One forensic pathologist has filed another complaint of abuse of power about the department’s closing.

Cheryl Mahyr, with the office of the chief coroner in Toronto, said post-mortems from Brantford-Brant will continue to be completed in Hamilton until a transfer to the Provincial Forensic Pathology Unit in Toronto next July.

“The PFPU has ushered in a new era of growth and innovation using new technology that we apply to forensic cases,” Mahyr said in an email.

“The use of these new methods, available at the PFPU, will benefit cases from Hamilton and surrounding areas, will support the work of police and coroners and ultimately assist families and the criminal justice system.”

Mahyr said there’s no expectation that wait times for post-mortems will be affected.

SGamble@postmedia.com
@EXPSGamble

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