Marion County Coroner’s Office still out of room, staff says they don’t feel safe in current facility

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The staff at the Marion County Coroners Office tells CBS4 they do not feel safe working in their current facility, and they are out of room to store bodies.

“Now we’re actually seeing what we had actually predicted some ten years ago that we don’t have enough storage for decedents where we are storing decedents off-site because we don’t have the space,” Alfarena McGinty, Chief Deputy Coroner at the Marion County Coroners Office, said.

McGinty said there is not enough space for staff to work either, especially amid a pandemic. Employees are begging for an upgraded facility, and one with enough room to adequately serve the community.

“It’s not about getting a nice facility just because,” McGinty explained. “It’s simply because we are out of space and it is an unsafe work environment.”

McGinty said the current building has poor ventilation, and that creates a health hazard for staff and visitors to the facility – especially when examining bodies positive for COVID-19 or Tuberculosis.

“TB is the big one because that’s the one where you might not have any signs or symptoms until you open the body,” McGinty explained. “So, that would be where you would open the body not knowing the person is infected with TB and then you run the risk of contaminating the entire staff and having them become infected because you just didn’t know.”

McGinty said they do not have the necessary resources nor facility to perform autopsies on COVID-positive patients, so they have had to transport bodies to Indiana University’s facility multiple times.

“We’ve had to look at paying extra costs to do that,” McGinty said. “For transporting the decedent from our office to IU because we just can’t perform those contagious cases.”

McGinty said they are performing an average of seven death investigations every day.

“In seven days, that’s 49 cases,” McGinty explained. “We only have the capacity to hold 25 decedents at our office.”

Monday, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced a $190 million project which would provide major changes to some public facilities, including $16 million for an upgraded coroners office.

These projects will be paid for through a re-establishment of a tax levy. The “Circle City Forward” initiative would re-establish the County Cumulative Capital Development Fund tax levy as the 2005 Pension Relief bonds are paid off this year. Elected leaders said property owners will not notice an increase in their taxes, if anything they might notice a slight decrease.

This funding measure must be passed first by the full council. The Admin & Finance Committee did send the funding measure to the full council with a do-pass recommendation.

The committee postponed hearing Proposal 89 which would appropriate an additional $19 million for design and feasibility studies for each of the sites receiving money for upgrades.

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