FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio — From COVID-19 to single-year highs in homicides, families who lost loved ones in Franklin County were left waiting months for closure as the coroner's office struggled to keep up with the demand.
Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz is defending her department, saying they are getting faster.
In February, 10TV reported at least three forensic pathologists submitted resignation letters.
“It has caused me and my office, our administrative staff to look at things and develop an action plan in order to serve the residents of this county in a timely fashion,” Dr. Ortiz said.
The coroner's office can have up to eight full-time pathologists. Currently, they have two.
Due to the departures, the coroner's office had to outsource some autopsies and had to ask for additional funds.
The Franklin County Commissioners set the coroner's office budget at $7.75 million for the year. Since then, Dr. Ortiz requested an additional $1.1 million to cover items including a contract with Hamilton County to perform autopsies, transportation costs, a search firm to hire and a public relations firm. Dr. Ortiz said they are operating under the approved budget.
The county commissioners sent a statement saying in part, "The commissioners are committed to the good governance principles of efficiency and responsiveness, and to providing the separately elected county officials with the resources necessary to execute the duties of their offices."
Ortiz said she has taken steps to hire and the office is giving families answers in less time. In 2021, it took four to six months to complete an autopsy report. Now, it's about half that time.
“We are now seeing a positive effect. We are seeing 8-10 weeks in getting coroner reports out. We've also increased communications with families letting them know every step of the way,” she said.
Two additional pathologists have been hired and are waiting on a start date. Ortiz explains she is in the process of interviewing an additional pathologist.