The Maryland Department of Health (MDH), converted a Baltimore parking garage into an emergency room to handle an “unprecedented” backlog of autopsies of people who have overdosed or been murdered.
Patrick Moran, President and CEO of AFSCME Council 3, told the outlet that bodies were “piling up and being decomposed right in front everyone’s eyes.” “Bodies are decaying and that is not how to treat those who have lost their lives or families looking for closure.”
The report states that more than 200 bodies await autopsy. According to CBS News, a Montgomery County Democrat Delegate Kirill Reznik stated that some remains are being kept in refrigerated truck trucks in the garage and loading dock. A CBS affiliate found that the garage was being rented at $30,000 per month from procurement documents.
Moran stated to WMAR that union members described a “gruesome scene” at Baltimore’s agency.
Moran stated, “It is pretty vile. It’s pretty unhealthy.”
According to reports, the Maryland Department of Health will use the garage until permanent expansion is possible.
“The additional storage has been provided allows adequate capacity for decedents that are awaiting autopsy as much as those who are complete and awaiting funeral home,” Dr. Jinlene Chan (Deputy Secretary of MDH) stated at a House subcommittee meeting last Wednesday.
Chan also attributed the backlog to high unemployment rates, 17.2 percent in December. An MDH spokesperson confirmed that there was a shortage of qualified applicants throughout the country. Chan said that three positions were vacant for almost a year and that many medical examiners had either retired or resigned. Three more positions are “expected” to be vacant soon.
The outlet reported that MDH had added 21 positions to help with the increasing workload. These included medical examiners and toxicologists as well as support professionals. FEMA has two pathologists and two assistants in the interim to support OCME, which will begin this week.
WMAR was informed by Erich W. March (VP and CEO March Funeral Homes) that the backlog has a negative impact on families who have lost loved one.
March stated that families are already anxious because they have lost someone close to them, which increases their anxiety.
March said that delays make planning memorial services more difficult because families don’t know when they can complete them.
WMAR also reported that Baltimore City had reported 36 homicides in January 2022 and 49 non-fatal shootings. This was “the deadliest January since 1970s.”
WJZ13 reported that opioid overdoses are still “among the state’s most serious causes of death.” This was a 28% increase over the previous year according to Centers for Disease Control data.