MASON CITY — It could cost Cerro Gordo County taxpayers an additional $100,000 a year to perform autopsies as they no longer are being done locally.
Pathology Associates of Mason City recently notified the county that due to staffing shortages, they no longer have the ability to perform autopsy services locally.
The county’s director of administrative services Tom Meyer says all autopsies will now be performed at the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Ankeny, meaning the cost per autopsy for the county will go from $1500 to $1800, plus the county will also have to pick up the additional transportation costs. “With their smaller staff size and then now the transport down from Mason City to Ankeny, based on past autopsies that have been done, we’ll probably see a budget increase of probably just over $100,000 between all the different costs that will now be entailed in this situation.”
An autopsy must be performed when the primary concern is to determine whether the death resulted from disease, from injury, or a combination of the two. Cerro Gordo County was one of the few counties left in Iowa where autopsies were being performed locally. Meyer says if the staffing shortage situation improves in the future with Pathology Associates, they may consider once again doing local autopsies. “We spoke to them about that. I think their plan is…I don’t know in this field how tight the market is as far as finding people…but there hope is to add people I would imagine by the end of next year. If they get to that place, I think they would consider doing them again.”
Counties are required by Iowa law to pick up the costs of autopsies. Supervisor Tim Latham commented about the added cost to the county now that they’ll be performed in Ankeny. He says when looking through the claims that the supervisors approve each week, it bugged him that some of the people knew they had been sick for a long time, had cancer or some other ailment. “We’re still spending $1500 to have an autopsy done. I guess that’s something that we’ll have to take up with the legislators to look at changing that, because it’s a burden to the county.” Meyer responded that the county performed about 130 autopsies in 2018.
The Board of Supervisors today approved new guidelines and protocols for the use of “medical examiner investigators” in the county. They also approved appointing Angela Konrad as the county’s Chief Medical Examiner, as well as former Mason City police officer Frank Stearns as a Medical Examiner Investigator.