Behind the walls at ETSU Quillen College of Medicine, hundreds of autopsies are done every year, paid for by the taxpayers of the counties it services. Those fees may soon be going up.
According to the Dean at the school, new state laws would require more people on staff, requiring the increase. "It works out to about 92 cents per-capita; we're going to increase that to about $2.79 per-capita in order to provide to the minimum service. This would still leave our per-capita service from the counties at the lowest of the forensic centers in Tennessee," explained the dean.
But that is a lot of money for some of the counties like Washington County, Tennessee. Last year the county paid $150,000 to the medical center. Now, the school is asking for an additional $300,000 every year. "I know the forensic center is trying to comply with the state law, the state rules, Washington County has to comply with the state rules. The frustration is in complying with the state rules. We're spending a lot of money and not providing anything to our citizens," says Washington County mayor Dan Eldridge.
Along with Eldridge, county mayors in Sullivan, Johnson, Carter, Unicoi, Greene, Hawkins and Hancock counties are trying to figure out how to come up with the additional money or trying to find somewhere else to go, like Knoxville or Nashville, for autopsies. "The issue that you have to deal with in that regard is transportation, and you could quickly offset any potential savings with added transportation costs," adds Eldridge.
At the medical school, the plan to hire more people in order to stay accredited is based on all eight counties coming on board with the new fees.