As outgoing forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov announced his resignation on Thursday, management of the Forensic Science Centre in St James have begun the task of finding his replacement.
Alexandrov submitted his resignation one month in advance to allow the Ministry of National Security adequate time to find a new pathologist. However, in an interview on Friday, Alexandrov revealed the centre has yet to find a permanent replacement and was in the process of organising a roster for the remaining forensic pathologists to cope with a backlog of autopsies. The pathologists are Dr Eslyn Burris and Dr Hughvon des Vignes.
“Last week, the previous week was supposed to be my last week but the situation as it is now is very unstable, with Dr Eslyn Burris. She applied for a part-time position. She was applying for two days a week. There were three of us working week after week, so ultimately the number of days for each of us was eight days a week. If she is taking two days each week, it’s the same monthly workload, if its every other week, who will be covering the workload now that I am gone?”
Alexandrov explained while Friday was his last day conducting autopsies, he would remain at the centre until he has completed all reports on autopsies under his charge.
“So I have to finish all my reports, I cannot leave the country. There is no standard of time pertaining to how long to do an autopsy report, because I need to do a make a detailed description of all tattoos or markings on the body as well as a description of the injuries.”
Alexandrov added that the centre did not adhere to the international standard which prevented individual pathologists from conducting more than 250 autopsies per year, disclosing he has performed 800 since 2016.
“The United Nations Forensic Pathology Commission are saying that any forensic pathologist is not allowed to do more than 250 autopsies for the year, 275 for the most and that is under special circumstances. If any pathologist is found to perform more than 300, they are stripped of accreditation, which means that the court can consider me an unreliable witness on the basis that performing so many autopsies, I become exhausted mentally and physically or prone to make major mistakes in the administration of justice.”
Asked the reason for the backlog of autopsies and immense workload, Alexandrov said that short staff and too many holidays are responsible for the current state of the centre.
“In the UK or Canada there is only one day when the forensic centre is closed and that is Christmas. Everyday is work as usual, however here in Trinidad there are 146 days off including weekends.”
Also asked what autopsy stood out to him the most, Alexandrov said he remembers the autopsy of Japanese pannist and masquerader Asami Nagakiya in 2015 because of difficulties in transporting the body for an autopsy.
“That was a case that really left a mark on me. I remember that they found her body less than half a mile from the centre and still it took a long time to reach for me to do the autopsy and I don’t understand why.”