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Closer to a cure for coronial autopsy delay pains 

Progress is finally being made to address the coronial autopsy delay nightmare in regional and rural areas.

The positive step forward followed a meeting I had with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard during the last sitting week.  

Reported delays across the coronial autopsy process followed a consolidation of the NSW Forensic Health Pathology services in 2016, with Wagga Wagga-based bodies requiring a forensic autopsy sent to Newcastle for the procedure. A number of reasons, including an international shortage of forensic pathology specialists, were given for the move. 

However, the change inadvertently resulted in harrowing accounts of weeks-long wait times, further traumatising families and individuals affected by the sudden, unexpected or suspicious death of a loved one. 

But the meeting with the Minister for Health and senior health executives last week sparked a renewed hope for me. I was encouraged to receive a positive response to my suggestion, that an external review of the entire forensic coronial autopsy process, from point of death to return of body, be undertaken as soon as possible.

When you can see where the blockages are, you can fix them.  A review would also provide a benchmark for the processes in NSW, which could then be compared to and evaluated against other Australian states. 

In addition to this, the Minister said he would look into legislative changes that could decrease the number of bodies requiring full coronial autopsies in Newcastle.