'That was a nightmare': delayed toxicology reports one of top concerns in Sask. coroner review

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'That was a nightmare': delayed toxicology reports one of top concerns in Sask. coroner review

'That was a nightmare': delayed toxicology reports one of top concerns in Sask. coroner review

Delores Stevenson says waiting for a delayed toxicology report was a "nightmare in itself" after the death of her niece, Nadine Machiskinic.

According to a recent report on Saskatchewan's Office of the Chief Coroner, she is not the only person to experience problems with toxicology reports.

The 104-page external report, led by former Saskatoon police chief Clive Weighill, was made public Wednesday and includes 44 recommendations to help the office meet its mandate. 

Three of those recommendations address concerns around delays in toxicology reports.

According to the report, the coroner's office aims to have toxicology analysis complete within 90 days at least 85 per cent of the time, but that goal is not being met.

Machiskinic, a 29-year-old mother of four, died after falling 10 storeys down a laundry chute in 2015. The final coroner's report took almost a year-and-a-half to complete largely due to the toxicology report. 

In that instance, police failed to send in some toxicological samples from Machiskinic's body. Six months had passed before they were sent in. 

Stevenson says the delay took a toll on her and also the investigation into the death. Machiskinic's death was initially ruled an accident but an inquest later found it to be "undetermined."

"It was really challenging to continue to have to push through to get answers and not really get answers," she said.

"It was very frustrating because we needed that to carry on with the investigation."

Many of the report's recommendations are based on how coroner's offices around the country operate, as well as interviews with families who have been through the coroner's report process.

The report states, "Delays in receiving toxicology reports were mentioned in almost every interview conducted during the course of this review."

Weighill had a similar response while taking questions after the report was released.

"Toxicology was taking too long, that's the common concern I heard right across," said Weighill after the report was released.

"Families are wondering what's going on, what's taking so long," he said.

In some cases, people are waiting up to 14 months for the final coroner's report, according to Weighill, which is partly due to the time it takes to complete toxicology reports.

Toxicology report recommendations

In order to speed up toxicology reports, recommendations include adding an additional laboratory scientist in the Toxicology, Endocrinology, and Newborn Screening Department of the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory (SDCL) and certifying the current Ph.D. scientist at the SDCL as a toxicologist.

Those recommendations would be funded through the Office of the Chief Coroner.

Another recommendation is to create a written set of guidelines between the Office of the Chief Coroner and the SDCL to outline funding, policy, performance standards and service agreement for toxicology screening.

Weighill says he hopes some of the recommendations in the report are implemented immediately.