New issues have arisen at the Forensic Science Centre (FSC), a critical branch of the National Security Ministry and a key player in gathering evidence in crimes. There are supposed to be six mortuary attendants working at the centre, but two of the permanent staff are on prolonged sick leave, and the third took ill a week ago.
Four attendants are normally scheduled to assist pathologists with their work, but the contract staff downed tools last week until they are paid their August salaries. The three contract attendants are also upset that they continue to work on three-month contracts that have been continuously renewed for the last two years; a questionable industrial relations practice. As a result of that working arrangement, the contract workers say they have no medical plan and no scheduled holidays aside from now being paid late every month.
To get any work done last week at all, funeral home workers were apparently brought in to assist with the handling of bodies awaiting autopsy. These workers cannot assist the pathologists, so the pace of work has slowed considerably. Of the 15 bodies awaiting autopsies last week, only four were done. The result has been a greater than usual level of confusion at the centre.
Aside from the families whose funeral plans were disrupted, the bodies of ten-year-old Josiah Carrington and Alisha Carrington, who died in a car accident eight days ago, were being shuttled back and forth between the FSC and the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Centre last week causing the family significant annoyance.
The centre is operating with a newly hired pathologist, Dr Katherine Morris who is said to be still learning the considerable ropes at the FSC, and Dr Somu Sekhar, who may not seek a renewal of his year-long contract when it ends in July 2020.
The pathologists work one week on and one week off, which may be a consequence of the maintenance closure of one of the two autopsy rooms. In a response to a WhatsApp message about the situation, the Ministry of National Security described the situation as “some issues” that it’s working on.
It’s not clear at what point the ministry would raise its priorities for addressing the FSC, where the x-ray machine hasn’t worked for a year, the autopsy rooms are at half-capacity, freezers are filled with unclaimed bodies and families are being disappointed daily when they arrive to claim their loved ones.
National Security Minister Stuart Young should find enough warning signals here to take a more aggressive stance in addressing the challenges at the Forensic Science Centre where the situation is highly unacceptable and in fact dead wrong.