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Maryland medical examiner backlog is resolved, audit says

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The backlog of cases in the understaffed Maryland medical examiner’s office has been resolved, according to a state audit released last week.

The office had amassed a backlog of 217 autopsies as of February, because of staffing shortages, which forced state officials to seek help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Within a month, the backlog was resolved, auditors found.

The medical examiner’s office investigates violent and suspicious deaths and deaths in which a physician was not present, and performs autopsies to determine the cause and manner of death. Before December 2021, the office conducted most autopsies within 24 hours, the report says.

Maryland’s chief medical examiner resigns amid massive backlog at state morgue

The Maryland medical examiner’s office, one of the busiest morgues in the nation, and others across the country have struggled to keep pace with deaths due to violence, the coronavirus and drug overdoses as agencies suffered staffing shortages.

At the height of the logjam, the odor of decomposed bodies prompted officials to move most bodies to a makeshift morgue of refrigerated trailers in a downtown city parking garage in Baltimore.

The backlog delayed funerals and affected some prosecutions because of delays in autopsy reports and difficulty in finding medical examiners for murder trials.

Maryland medical examiner’s office faces backlog, affecting funerals and investigations

The National Association of Medical Examiners periodically downgraded the office’s accreditation because of long-standing staffing inadequacies, although NAME waived compliance for all facilities in early 2021, because of the pandemic, and has not yet reinstated the process, according to the report.

The main objective of the audit, conducted by the General Assembly Office of Legislative Audits, was to review the office’s finances from Sept. 7, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2021.