Manitoba

Longtime Manitoba chief medical examiner retires from top role

He may no longer be Manitoba’s Chief Medical Examiner – but don’t call him retired. Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra confirmed Tuesday he retired his CME post, but the 71-year-old says he still plans to do medical examinations for as long as he can.

Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra had held the top position since 1998

Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra has retired as the province's chief medical examiner effective June 30. (Ryan Hicks/CBC) (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

He may no longer be Manitoba's Chief Medical Examiner – but don't call him retired.

Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra confirmed Tuesday he retired his CME post, but the 71-year-old says he still plans to do medical examinations for as long as he can.

Balachandra said he chose not to renew his provincial contract as CME, saying he's done so three times since officially taking the job in July 1999 after a year of being acting chief.

"The clock is ticking, the world is moving, I'm getting old," Balachandra said.

Over nearly 20 years in the high-pressure job, Balachandra indicates he always took a practical, common-sense and collaborative approach to his work.

As CME, Balachandra was well-respected within justice and medical circles and testified in court – to his estimation – more than 150 times.

"There are problems to be solved, and I solved those problems to the best of my abilities," he said.

He also called a number of fact-finding inquests into high-profile provincial deaths.

They included a judicial inquest into the death of Brian Sinclair, a double-amputee who died while waiting 34 hours for care at the Health Sciences Centre emergency room in September 2008.

 "It's like living in heaven for me to have come all the way from Sri Lanka"- Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra

It resulted in 63 recommendations aimed at improving health care and preventing similar deaths in Manitoba.

Balachandra also called inquests into fire-related deaths on Manitoba reserves, suicides of youths at the Manitoba Youth Centre, and the death of Tracia Owen, a 14-year-old Winnipeg girl in the care of Child and Family Services who hanged herself in August 2005.

The inquest into Owen's death examined social factors leading youth to become sexually exploited and involved in the street drug subculture.

It also influenced the creation of Tracia's Trust, a provincial anti-sexual exploitation strategy for youth that launched in December 2008.

Balachandra takes no position on the impact his decisions have had on Manitoba's social fabric.

"That was my job and I did it according to what needed to be done," he said.

Sri Lankan by birth, Balachandra came to Canada in 1984.

He said had no plans to vacation and reflect on his time as CME.

"I am on vacation," he quipped, only half-jokingly. "I consider my stay in Canada a vacation. I love every minute of it – the conditions here are so good … it's like living in heaven for me to have come all the way from Sri Lanka," Balachandra said.

Deputy chief medical examiner Dr. John Younes has been appointed as acting CME as of June 30, according to a provincial order in council.

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