Deteriorating Oklahoma Medical Examiner facility leaves more than 1,000 families waiting for answers

2NEWS investigates what's causing the huge hold-ups and how a new facility could fix the problem.
 
The state's Medical Examiner's Office in Oklahoma City is in bad shape.  Rusting equipment and lack of ventilation are only a couple of the problems according to the Medical Examiner's Chief Administrative Officer, Amy Elliott, who adds   "We have 23 active water leaks.  We have a hole in the morgue floor."
  
The M.E.'s office lost its accreditation with the National Association of Medical Examiners, or NAME, in 2009 both because of the condition of the building, and because the office does not have enough forensic pathologists on staff.
 
Elliott says there is funding to hire more but the cramped, overcrowded, offices make that impossible.   She says   "If I hired a doctor right now I couldn't put him or her in the building to work."
 
As a result, Elliott says there are currently 1,100 open cases.   Nearly one hundred of those go back to 2012.
 
One of them;  the case of five-year-old Noah Osborn.
 
His family came from Oregon to Tulsa to celebrate Thanksgiving last year.   Noah went to bed November 29, 2013 and died in his sleep.
 
His parents Steven and Jenny, who have a younger son, are left to wait and wonder why.   Jenny says   "As a mother it's important for me to take care of and protect my children and because there are no signs that Noah was sick and this was going to happen I didn't get the opportunity to fight for his life and I'd like to know why."
 
Nearly a year later still no answers and Noah's case, along with more than a thousand others in Oklahoma, remain open.
 
Elliott says   "Noah Osborn's case is one of our top priorities.   Every case that we have is a priority but we feel for Noah's family for the time that they've waited.   As you can see around me, these are all cases that are waiting.  Their loved ones are waiting for conclusion." 
 
Elliott says building a new facility, double the size of the current office, would allow her to hire the additional doctors she needs so they could close the huge backlog of cases.
 
Funding for the new facility was challenged all the way to the state Supreme Court but justices just recently approved using $38.5M to build the M.E.'s new facility on the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond.
 
The Supreme Court ruled selling school-related bonds to pay for the construction is legal.  The money will be raised through bonds authorized in a finance program designed for colleges and universities.
 
Elliott says it's hoped they'll break ground early next year.   Construction will take three years meaning 2017 before the expanded facility is up and running.
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