September 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Contract would let UM run medical examiner's office in Wayne County

Detroit— Wayne County commissioners are expected to approve today a plan allowing the University of Michigan to take over operation of the Medical Examiner’s Office.

The three-year, $16.7-million contract will allow the county greater access to pathologists, advanced laboratory facilities and forensics through UM, county officials said. The university, in turn, will be able to expand its pathology programs and recruit and train physicians.

The commission’s Health and Human Services Committee approved the deal Wednesday and the full commission will take it up today.

Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Schmidt said his office will benefit from having the university associated with it.

“The big picture here is even though we’re a small part of the county’s operation we’re also one that can generate a lot of bad news if something difficult happens,” Schmidt said. “It will be one of the few departments in the country able to provide all pathology services under one roof.”

The county says it would save money under the plan because to be able to offer services comparable with what will be offered under UM, the county would have to spend millions.

Under the change, the 19 employees in the Medical Examiner’s Office will be offered positions with UM and become employees of the University of Michigan Health System. Operations will continue out of its offices in Detroit.

The county has faced criticism over long response times, delays in autopsies and understaffing. Schmidt said that when UM takes over, he anticipates the problems “for all practical purposes, will disappear.”

“Traditionally, this has been something we’ve had a number of challenges with,” said Commissioner Irma Clark-Coleman, D-Detroit. “If this is going to provide us with some good exposure for a change, I have no problem with it.”

Commissioner Kevin McNamara, D-Belleville, said the change will vault the office “to one of the premier medical examiner’s offices in the country.”

The office will also work toward gaining accreditation from the National Association for Medical Examiners — a change that will allow the department better access to federal funding, officials said.

If approved by commissioners, the contract will go into effect Oct 1.

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