DeLand, FL – The Chief Medical Examiner for Volusia County has expresed her concerns about a “potentially dangerous state of affairs” at the Medical Examiner’s Office in a letter to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission announcing her resignation.
In the letter, Chief Medical Examiner Sara Zydowicz cited a morgue cooler that is over capacity, critical understaffing and a backlog of approximately 200 cases waiting to be proofread as issues that make staying in the office “untenable.” She explains in the letter that she does not wish to “tarnish her reputation by staying in a situation that she did not create.”
Zydowicz writes that the Medical Examiner’s Office should have a staff of 39, based on current workload, but it currently only has 14 people on staff.
“I am deeply concerned about the state of the office and the County’s long-standing pattern of lack of response in addressing these issues,” Zydowicz writes. “The office has been neglected to the point that daily work is, at times, not possible, and the risk of critical error is uncomfortably high.”
Click here to find a link to Zydowicz’s letter.
Zydowicz announced her resignation on April 27, after about a month at her post on a full-time basis, and her resignation is effective on June 1st. Read earlier reporting here.
In a memo from Deputy County Manger George Recktenwald, Recktenwald says he disagrees with the characterization of some of the statements in Zydowicz’s letter. Recktenwald says Zydowicz was “well aware of the current challenges of the office, as well as the capital plans for improvement” before her application for the position.
Recktenwald adds in the memo that he is uncertain what Zydowicz meant when she referred to “dangerous conditions.” You can find a link to Recktenwald’s letter here.
The County Council had already approved the purchase of a portable cooler to store cadavers in. According to Joanne Magley, Community Information Director for Volusia County, the cooler is set to be delivered on May 31st of this year, and plans have already been in place for construction of a new facility.
“We are actively interviewing candidates and creating a plan for immediate staffing needs,” says Magley. “One of the biggest issues is the nationwide shortage of medical examiners.”
Photo of Zydowicz courtesy of Volusia County Community Information.