Fresno Coroner's Office Infested with Maggots

May 20, 2009 6:13:08 PM PDT
Maggots are crawling all over the autopsy room at the Fresno County Coroner's Office. The coroner, Dr. David Hadden, says he needs a new place to work, but county supervisors are squeamish about paying for a new building.The obvious deterioration of the 61-year-old building starts in the driveway where you can see it's overgrown with weeds and the road is too weak to carry the weight of cars. But in the room where they conduct autopsies, it's a whole lot worse.

Dead bodies are run-of-the-mill at the county coroner's office, but dead larvae are not. And right near them, there's something nobody wants to see: maggots crawling on the autopsy room walls. Some of them have grown into flies and that's how a deputy coroner noticed the problem. "It's part of the job," said Deputy Coroner Kelli Wiefel. "I'm used to flies and maggots, but I'm not used to coming downstairs and having flies dive-bomb my body while I'm working. So, it was pretty disgusting."

The maggot population is the latest in a series of troubles that Dr. David Hadden says show the county needs a new coroner's building -- one he's been pushing for over the last ten years.

The current building has no air conditioning, so coroners use swamp coolers; the floors are uneven, so water pools on the floor where it can collect disease; and the old floor got a patch job, but even the patch job is deteriorating. "Bacteria gets under the lip of this linoleum and fester under there, so it's impossible to keep this clean and we have dangerous pathogens growing where healthy people have to work," said Dr. Hadden.

A solution has already been drawn up and crews could start new office construction within two weeks at a site on American Avenue, if they get funding from the county. But county supervisors recently voted 4-1 against it, with only Susan Anderson wanting to spend the money. "It is difficult in economic times like this to think about building a new building," she said. "But this is something we've been working on for a long time and it's a long-term decision we need to make."

Anderson wants to build now while construction is cheap and interest rates are low. The project would've cost $33 million last year, but right now, the projected price tag is down to $27 million.

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