Dakota County medical examiner eager for 2013 move

After 25 years, coroner office will move from Hastings

After years of planning, Dakota County commissioners, meeting as a committee, passed a resolution July 10 verifying the county’s intention to approve a three-year contract with Hennepin County for its medical examiner services starting next year.

After 25 years at Regina Hospital in Hastings, Dakota County Medical Examiner Lindsey Thomas and her staff will move into the Hennepin County facility next year, and Thomas will become assistant medical examiner.

Dr. Andrew Baker will become Dakota County’s medical examiner.

Thomas said she is happy with the changes and never aspired to be chief medical examiner.

“I’m totally for it,” Thomas told Sun Thisweek. “It’s so great. It really is the best long-term solution … for the shortage of forensic pathologists. In the future, it no longer makes sense to have a state like Minnesota with lots of little medical examiner’s offices.”

Thomas said regionalizing will allow better collaboration of cases and keep her small office from being “totally vulnerable” if one person leaves.

She said there is a national shortage of forensic pathologists, and when her assistant forensic pathologist, Dr. Susan Roe, moved back to her home state of Texas it was challenging for the remaining staff.

Lindsey said Regina Medical Center has been a good home for the office and wonderful to work with, but the department has outgrown available space and have had equipment problems.

“Our (six) coolers are literally held together with duct tape,” Thomas said. “On days we have more than six bodies, it’s not a pretty picture.”

Hennepin County proposed and drafted a cooperative agreement and requested Dakota County officially resolve the county’s intention before it begins remodeling some offices to accommodate the additional employees.

The three-year contract begins Jan. 1, 2013, and states that barring a catastrophic event, the county would pay a maximum of $1.09 million next year for the services.

The cost could be reduced if other counties that have partnered with Dakota County for the medical examiner’s office would also move to Hennepin County. Those counties are Chisago, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston and Scott.

County Administrator Brandt Richardson stated in a board memo that the other counties, including Scott, are considering Hennepin County as well.

State law mandates counties provide medical examiner services by a certified forensic pathologist.

According to the county, the medical examiner’s office investigates all human deaths that are sudden, unexpected, unnatural, violent, suspicious, or unattended by a physician.