Liberal MLA asks what's being done to improve coroner response times on P.E.I.

·3 min read
Liberal MLA Hal Perry says he's heard from constituents who say they've had to wait nearly three hours for a coroner to arrive at the scene of a death. (Rick Gibbs/CBC - image credit)
Liberal MLA Hal Perry says he's heard from constituents who say they've had to wait nearly three hours for a coroner to arrive at the scene of a death. (Rick Gibbs/CBC - image credit)

A Liberal MLA wants to know what government is doing to improve response times from coroner services across P.E.I.

Hal Perry raised the issue in the legislature Tuesday, saying it's a concern he shares with many in his district.

"Response times for death investigations can be longer than three hours at times and this is a burden on families," Perry said.

Perry said in 2016, P.E.I.'s Coroners Act was amended to allow the chief coroner to appoint field investigators, who could also respond to postmortem investigations and improve response times.

What else is your department doing to improve responsiveness of the coroners services here. — Liberal MLA Hal Perry

He said the amendment was designed to improve the coroner coverage Island-wide, specifically when it comes to postmortem transportation and examinations.

Perry asked Minister of Justice and Public Safety Bloyce Thompson what his department has done since then to improve that coverage.

"In my areas of the Island we haven't seen any changes to response times," Perry said.

"What else is your department doing to improve responsiveness of the coroners services here on Prince Edward Island?"

Thompson said he recognizes how important it is for coroners to respond as quickly as possible.

He said his department is currently doing a review of the coroner's office and its services to see where improvements can be made. That review began this spring and aims to modernize services and processes.

"I truly do acknowledge the importance of this," Thompson said.

"It's a crucial time for the family members to deal with this."

5 coroners on P.E.I.

Perry said under the amended act, field investigators could include nurses or paramedics the chief coroner grants authority to conduct investigations. He wants to know whether any investigators have been appointed since the act was amended.

Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.
Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.

"I know of recent accidents where families had to wait on the roadside with their loved one to be either pronounced dead or for the body to be removed for several hours," Perry said.

"To me that is just so unfair and so torturous to that family."

According to the department, at the time the amendment was introduced there were three coroners on the Island. Since then, the complement has increased to five.

In a statement, the department said the coroners office isn't aware of any extended delays, but there are some reasons why a delay could occur. Coroners have to wait until police are finished their investigation before they can attend a scene, the statement said.

All five coroners are also doctors on P.E.I., with their own practices across the province who also spend time in emergency departments, which can affect how quickly they respond.

The statement also said "given the limited number of calls and the increased number of coroners, the chief coroner does not believe that dedicating other health-care providers as field investigators is necessary at this time."

It goes on to say that the coroner always has the option to introduce field investigators if necessary.

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