The Morgue: County works to fix problems uncovered by Sun-Times
Problems at the Cook County medical examiner’s office came to a head in January when fed-up staff began complaining publicly about bodies piling up and filthy conditions.
The Sun-Times first reported the crowded conditions, with sources telling the newspaper some 400 adult bodies and about 100 babies’ bodies were kept in a cooler designed for just under 300. Another source called the cooler scene —with bodies stacked on boxes and covered in blue tarps — “sacrilegious.”
Cook County Medical Examiner Nancy Jones said at the time there were more bodies in the morgue than usual because state funding for public aid burials had been cut.
The news prompted a state labor department probe and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who oversees the office, to start an internal investigation. Preckwinkle pointed ot management problems there and suggested initially she’d like to show Jones the door but didn’t have the authority since the M.E. had an open-ended term of office. Months later, Jones announced she was stepping down while one of her deputies was forced to resign.
Preckwinkle hired Dr. Stephen Cina, a Florida pathologist, who will start Sept. 10. He says he’s committed to improving technology and safety at the West Side facility, but also emailed Jones to discuss operations.
On a first visit in June, Cina said the facility looked nothing like the horror staffers complained about months earlier.
Indeed, the fixes were in place — including keeping better track of bodies and the length of time they’re kept in the cooler and more stringent cleaning standards.
As of last Friday, there were 256 bodies in the cooler and 60 fetal remains, county officials said.