November 8, 2013


County eyes autopsy savings

Noncriminal autopsies would be done locally rather than in Binghamton

Staff Reporter

Cortland County plans to save money by having noncriminal autopsies performed locally at Cortland Regional Medical Center next year, rather than sending all autopsies to Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton as is the practice now.
The Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Thursday discussed the idea of contracting with CRMC.
The hospital is considering a sample contract in anticipation of an agreement starting in January, said Judiciary and Public Safety Chair Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville).
The county budgeted $49,920 for autopsies in 2013 and an additional $16,000 for transportation costs associated with autopsies, said County Administrator Martin Murphy.
Money was added to the transportation line in August, bringing it up to $41,000. The county has spent $21,000 on transportation costs so far, he said.
In 2012, the county spent $22,000 on transportation costs and just under $18,000 in 2011. TLC Emergency Medical Services is paid for transporting bodies from the location of death to Lourdes Hospital.
Of the $49,920 budgeted for autopsies in 2013, the county has spent about $40,000, which also includes a $5,000 transfer from that line to go to the transportation costs, Murphy said.
It is impossible to predict how much the switch to local autopsies could save since there is no telling how many autopsies will be performed yearly, he said.
The average transportation cost per autopsy is about $650, Whitney said. Of the approximately 60 cases of death a coroner responds to annually only about 20 to 25 merit an autopsy. Autopsies are performed when the cause of death is questionable.
But it is unclear how many autopsies would be done locally since only noncriminal autopsies would be sent to the local hospital.
A typical reason for a noncriminal autopsy would be that the person was young and healthy when they died, Whitney said. A family can also request an autopsy but the person must still be under the age of 63 and relatively healthy to qualify, he said.
The county can consider doing autopsies locally since Cortland Regional Medical Center recently hired another pathologist and now has adequate staff to do autopsies.
“They are bringing in a second pathologist and those pathologists ... are interested in doing autopsies so the hospital reached out to us because we’ve reached out to them to save money,” Whitney said.
In the past when the county contacted the hospital about performing autopsies, it did not have adequate staff, he said.
The cost of an autopsy starts at $400 and goes up from there depending on the type of tests needed, Murphy said. It is unclear what rates CRMC would charge.
Murphy is leaving the 2014 tentative budget at $45,000 for autopsies and $16,000 for transportation costs until there is a signed contract with the hospital.
“It’s hard for us to predict how many we will have in any given year but for every autopsy done here in Cortland that’s money we’ll save on transportation costs,” Murphy said.


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