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Alberta to hire 2 more medical examiners to deal with increasing demand, fentanyl overdoses

WATCH ABOVE: The province is opening up the cheque book in an effort to ease the workload of the chief medical examiner. Tom Vernon explains how an additional million dollars a year will be spent.

Alberta is hiring two more medical examiners for a total of 10 to reduce caseloads and deal with emerging issues such as fentanyl overdoses.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said Wednesday it’s part of a $1-million investment in the office.

“Funding two more positions will allow the office to meet the demands of a growing population along with the additional work of providing data regarding opioid-related deaths that our government has requested,” Ganley told a news conference at the office of chief medical examiner Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim.

READ MORE: Fentanyl overdoses killed hundreds of Canadians this year, experts say 2017 could be deadlier

Brooks-Lim said she plans to put one of the new positions in Calgary and one in Edmonton.

She said her office investigates 20,000 deaths a year and conducts 4,000 autopsies.

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The goal, she said, is to balance workload with increasing demands that include a ruling last year that allows criminal charges to be stayed if a case does not go to trial in an acceptable time frame.

“My office is very acutely aware of the Supreme Court Jordan decision and we are prioritizing cases that may go to trial, such as homicides and other high-profile cases.”

On Tuesday, the province announced that 343 Albertans died in overdoses from opioids such as fentanyl in 2016. That is up 25 per cent from 257 cases the previous year.

The province also plans to hire a research officer to manage policy.

Ganley announced the province has completed more than $20 million in renovations to the Edmonton medical examiner’s office.

The upgrades include a larger toxicology lab and improved bio-containment equipment.

Tools inside the autopsy room.
Tools inside the autopsy room. Tom Vernon, Global News
Newly expanded autopsy room, there are six stations inside this room.
Newly expanded autopsy room, there are six stations inside this room. Tom Vernon, Global News
Scale inside the autopsy room.
Scale inside the autopsy room. Tom Vernon, Global News
One of the beds in the autopsy room.
One of the beds in the autopsy room. Tom Vernon, Global News
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, along with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim and Chief Toxicologist Dr. Graham Jones, announces additional funding for the office to hire two new examiners.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, along with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim and Chief Toxicologist Dr. Graham Jones, announces additional funding for the office to hire two new examiners. Tom Vernon, Global News
An employee at the Chief Medical Examiner’s office works at a new biological safety cabinet.
An employee at the Chief Medical Examiner’s office works at a new biological safety cabinet. Tom Vernon, Global News
An employee at the Chief Medical Examiner’s office works in a newly renovated space.
An employee at the Chief Medical Examiner’s office works in a newly renovated space. Tom Vernon, Global News
Chief Toxicologist Dr. Graham Jones stands inside the newly expanded toxicology laboratory.
Chief Toxicologist Dr. Graham Jones stands inside the newly expanded toxicology laboratory. Tom Vernon, Global News
Equipment inside the newly expanded toxicology laboratory.
Equipment inside the newly expanded toxicology laboratory. Tom Vernon, Global News
Equipment inside the newly expanded toxicology laboratory.
Equipment inside the newly expanded toxicology laboratory. Tom Vernon, Global News

 

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