Nfld. & Labrador

Office of the Chief Medical Examiner salary budget hasn't been cut, justice minister says

Newfoundland and Labrador's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will sustain the funding it had last year, according to the province’s justice minister.

Andrew Parsons says earlier financial estimates showing 15% drop have since been changed

Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons says the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will not see a cut to its budget this year. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will sustain the funding it had last year, according to the province's justice minister.

According to estimates tabled last month by the Department of Finance, the office's salary budget was reduced by $81,500 this year. That amounted to a drop of about 15 per cent.

In mid-April, an official with the justice department confirmed that figure, noting that a second pathologist in the office had moved to another position, thus reducing the salary costs.

However, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons told reporters Wednesday that circumstances have since changed.

"At the time it was because our part-time pathologist Dr. [Nash] Denic had indicated that he was leaving the position. He had been at 50 per cent, so the money would have been subtracted accordingly," Parsons told reporters at the House of Assembly.

"The fact is, though, that we found out from the Department of Health after this had already been done that he actually was going to be working 25 per cent of the time."

Parsons said the remaining money will be reabsorbed into the budget, bringing the total number budgetary amount to $556,900 — slightly more than last year.

Review ongoing into operations of office

Dr. Matthew Bowes, the chief medical examiner in Nova Scotia, was hired by the province to review the operations of the Newfoundland and Labrador office.

The review was called in response to a CBC News investigation last January which found key evidence in a Labrador murder case was likely thrown away with medical waste.

His father, Thomas Michel, was charged with second-degree murder in relation to his son's death.

But the Crown dropped the charge after it was revealed the infant's brain had gone missing.

Documents obtained through access to information showed that the brain was kept in a room with medical waste destined for the trash, and that's likely where it ended up.

In November 2016, Bowes told reporters that early indications in his review show the office is understaffed.

Dr. Matthew Bowes, chief medical examiner for Nova Scotia, is seen here on the stand in P.E.I. Supreme Court. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"They need help," Bowes noted, adding the St. John's office had three staff members. By comparison, Nova Scotia's office has 24.

Parsons said he awaits the outcome of Bowes' review, which is expected some time this month.

"I expect once I see the report and review the recommendations there will probably have to be some serious discussions on increases that are needed to that office," he said.

"I'm certainly not going to commit to anything right now."

The review looks at infrastructure, resources, policies and procedures.

About the Author

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.