An assurance from government that the shortage of pathologists at the Forensic Science Centre (FSC) would be dealt with in the new year has not yet materialised, and up until yesterday, the centre was operating with one pathologist, Dr Hughvon Des Vignes.
This has been so since the resignation of Russian pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov, which took effect from January 1.
Another pathologist, Dr Eslyn McDonald-Burris, was contracted to do autopsies in Tobago and assist at the FSC when Des Vignes is unavailable.
Des Vignes’ workload includes murder victims, suspected murders and other deaths deemed unnatural by the police.
Last Monday there were 17 bodies scheduled for autopsies and, with only one pathologist, it remained unclear how many were done that day. Some families have had to wait for several days to have bodies released for funerals.
On January 1, three new attendants were assigned to the mortuary room and there are now seven assisting Des Vignes. However, two of those attendants are retiring soon – one for health reasons, and the other has reached mandatory retirement age.
A source at the FSC said yesterday the situation could only be described as chaotic, because murders continue at an alarming rate and the workload is taking a serious toll on the pathologists.
Additionally, FSC director Arlette Lewis is on vacation and is expected to retire in April. Deputy director Glen Parmassar is acting in her absence, while the head of the ballistics department, Derek Sankar, is acting as deputy director.
Mortuary room staff said yesterday their jobs are becoming more frustrating because the FSC is in dire need of three more pathologists.
Contacted yesterday, Alexandrov said before he retired he performed 300 autopsies a year and that is against international practices. He said the maximum was 250 autopsies a year, failing which, pathologistscan be deemed unreliable witnesses in court.
Parmassar could not be reached for comment.