Office of the Chief Medical Examiner gets funding boost — if Budget 2019 is approved

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner could see a boost to its budget, with a promise to double the number of staff this year from 2017.

The financial pledge was highlighted in Budget 2019, delivered by Finance Minister Tom Osborne at the House of Assembly on Tuesday.

An election is expected to be called on Wednesday, so the budget — and all of its financial promises — will not be approved before voters head to the polls. 

A 2017 government-commissioned review by Dr. Matthew Bowes, Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner, revealed long-standing issues with staffing, infrastructure and information management within the small office.  

Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons launched the Bowes review in early 2016, after a CBC News investigation revealed new details on how evidence was lost in an alleged murder case in Labrador.

The brain of four-month-old Matthew Rich, who died in 2013 of head injuries, is believed to have been thrown out with medical waste while in the care of the office. 

Peter Cowan/CBC

Thomas Michel was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his son, but without the brain the prosecution could not proceed with its case and he walked free.

Bowes concluded there were too few people working in the office, they were overworked, and they didn't have the proper space and equipment to do their jobs. That was not a revelation for Dr. Simon Avis, who had lamented the issues many times with previous governments to no avail.

He retired as chief medical officer after 30 years this year, but will remain working in a part-time capacity. Dr. Nash Denic has been appointed the new chief medical examiner. 

More than $1 million has been earmarked for salaries in 2019-20. That number was $450,000 in the previous budget.

Additional funds have also been set aside in Budget 2019 for property, furnishings and equipment, including a new data management system.

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