THE COUNTY coroner this week hit out at the “over-worked and under-staffed” pathology service which is delaying the holding of inquests, describing the coroner system as the “Cinderella of the public service”.
The Coroners Society of Ireland has made representations to the departments of health and justice for extra resources for pathology services in a bid to cut delays, but to no avail, coroner for South Tipperary Paul Morris said on Monday.
He urged the families of people who die suddenly to write to their TDs about the “unsatisfactory service” in which pathologists have to work.
The coroner was speaking at the inquest into the accidental death of a man who sustained a head injury in a fall at his home in Thurles.
Oliver Hoare (56) died in November of 2009 but the inquest could only be held this week because of the length of time it took to receive the post-mortem report.
Mr Morris said it was “very unfair” that Mr Hoare’s family had to wait so long to get answers at the inquest.
“We are the Cinderella of the public service,” he said of the coroner system, adding that he was not blaming pathologists for the delays.
“They’re over-worked and under-staffed but we’ve made submissions that the laboratory staff, if they were paid overtime to come in on a Saturday... I would have got the report within about three or four months.”
Pathologists are “very, very conscious” of the coroners’ concerns, he said. “They know it can be easily solved on the ground if we get the co-operation from the powers-that-be in Dublin. To date, all representations over the last decade have been met with silence and no reaction at all”, he said.
“To date, the Department of Justice and Department of Health, when we make these representations, say that’s the business of the other department. We get nowhere. That’s the reaction we’ve got - letters fall into black holes and under desks.”
Gardai told the inquest at Clonmel courthouse into Oliver Hoare’s death they were satisfied it was a result of an accident.
Mr Morris apologised to the Hoare family for the delay in holding the inquest. “I’m very conscious of the upset and trauma that delays like this can cause families and that’s why I’m speaking out today. It certainly might not do any harm if you register your own dissatisfaction with the experience and you can freely quote what I’m saying to your local TD or whoever you wish to make representations about the unsatisfactory service that’s built into the system at the moment.”
He said the pathologists are “with me” on this issue. “They’re embarrassed by the delays that can occur as well.”
Oliver Hoare was found by his niece on May 18 of 2009, having fallen in his home and sustained a head injury. He spent time at South Tipperary General Hospital, Cork University Hospital and in a nursing home while in a vegetative state, before dying on November 1 of 2009. His death was the result of bronchial pneumonia, secondary to the head injury suffered in a fall.