Delayed OMI death certificate issue could soon be resolved

Updated: 07/03/2014 5:57 PM | Created: 07/03/2014 5:47 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A growing number of New Mexicans are waiting weeks–even months–to get a death certificate listing a cause of death from the Office of the Medical Investigator.

The certificate is absolutely essential for things like life insurance policies and wills.

Why the delay? The OMI blames the State Scientific Lab while the lab director blames the OMI.

Toxicology testing at the State Lab on OMI cases has more than doubled since January 2013, when the Medical Investigator quit using an out-of-state lab in order to save money. Much of the testing that used to go out-of-state is complicated and time-consuming.

"We are experiencing long delays in getting toxicology results back from the State Lab," said Office of the Medical Investigator operations director Amy Boule in an email. "That is the primary cause of delays in finalizing cases."

State Lab director David Mills politely points out that the increased caseload comes straight from the Medical Investigator.

"Our capacity was flooded," Mills said. "This is very complex work. It's medical-legal, so you can't take shortcuts. After seven months of that increased caseload, we started getting backed up."

Both sides in this dispute realize they're on the same team and hope that backlog may soon be a thing of the past. The legislature coughed up more money for hiring seven new staff members in the toxicology lab. Three are already on the job and four more will soon be hired.

"So with the additional seven staff we'll be able to handle the increased load and get ourselves out of the backlog, hopefully in the next few months," Mills said. He said that should shrink the maximum wait back to about eight weeks for a cause of death on a death certificate, making life a little easier for those who've lost a loved one.

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