County officials have been given a six-month extension on the time needed to finalize plans for a potential county morgue.
River Park CEO Tim McGill informed county safety coordinator David Britton and County Executive John Pelham the hospital will continue its present practices concerning dead bodies until the end of the year.
The announcement comes on the heels of a letter written by McGill to Pelham stating River Park would no longer accept dead bodies effective Monday, July 7. The hospital also offered to give the county its two-person refrigeration cooler free of charge.
Britton informed members of the county Safety Committee on Monday that plans had changed as River Park was not completely ready for the transition.
“I told Mr. McGill that at whatever time they got their facility ready, we would take possession of their cooler. With the extension, we now have time to try and do this correctly. We now have months to plan a morgue and months to plan it right,” said Britton.
McGill said in an email to the Standard, “We are pleased to see that progress is being made by the Warren County Safety Committee, and as we committed earlier, we’ll work closely to assist with an orderly transition of morgue services. Once we realized our notice to discontinue these services would require additional time, the decision was made to extend the deadline through January, 2015. We have also requested from the county a monthly update and a transition plan within 90 days."
McGill continued, "When we determined that we were going to replace the hospital’s existing morgue cooler with a new unit, and providing this to Warren County, it seemed the right time to address the broader issue again with the county. Serving in this capacity as a hospital providing morgue services has been an ongoing concern as it may affect our primary mission of providing patient care. County Executive John Pelham and I have had ongoing discussions on this matter for the last two years. So I have full confidence our county leaders will determine the best solution for the future."
An anonymous donor dropped a $20,000 check at the Southern Standard last week following the publication of a column by editor James Clark estimating a morgue could be built for that amount.
Commissioner Charles Morgan said, “I am graciously and wholeheartedly grateful to the businessman who donated $20,000, but I truly think we will need more than that to build a morgue. I think that will barely get us started.”
Britton suggested committee members visit morgues in Macon and Jackson counties in order to know what needs to be done to establish a morgue in Warren County.
“I believe if you talk to people at those facilities, they will tell you what they wish they would have done differently and what they wish they could change and what they would not change,” said Britton.
Pelham said, “I’m sure the men and women of our funeral homes would also be willing to meet with us. They have the training and know what we will need to do. We are starting a whole new department. With that, in six months-time, we must be prepared to handle one of the most difficult situations families have to deal with.”
McGill also stated in the email, “Interestingly, the public debate about this is probably the first time many in our community were even aware River Park Hospital had voluntarily provided the county with morgue services. Our staff has provided the utmost care, compassion and professionalism to families over the years as deceased loved ones have been brought to our hospital. I want to publicly thank each … particularly our emergency room nurses and physicians and our partners at Warren County EMS.”
Members discussed places the morgue could be built, including a lot owned by the county across from the Warren County Emergency Ambulance Service and near the hospital.
Committee members voted 5-0 for Britton to set up a time to travel to Macon and Jackson counties with the intent to inspect their county morgues.
The members traveled to Macon County on Thursday to tour that county’s morgue facility.
Members of the county Safety Committee are Commissioners Teddy Boyd, Sally Brock, Ron Lee, Charles Morgan and Les Trotman.