Coroner's Office Inspected After Maggot Infestation

May 21, 2009 5:43:29 PM PDT
As exterminators and inspectors arrived at the Fresno County coroner's office Thursday, Valley families are reacting to the horrible discovery in the autopsy room.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Fresno Coroner's Office Infested with Maggots
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There's essentially a bandage covering the nasty problem now, but bandages don't last long and county supervisors know it.

Supervisor Phil Larson told Action News the new coroner's office is the county's number one capital project priority, but that could still mean it's years away.

In the meantime, Cal-OSHA saw our report on the maggot infestation Wednesday and showed up Thursday to inspect the place and see for themselves.

One day makes a little difference at the coroner's office. Action News found hundreds of maggots crawling all over the walls of the autopsy room Wednesday.

"Maggots falling from the ceiling," said the County's Chief Forensic Pathologist Dr. Venu Gopal. "It's a problem."

On Thursday, there were just a few inching along after pest control sprayed the room. But the problem pops up every year, and this solution is short-term, like a Band-aid.

"A Band-aid is a temporary fix and only for fresh wounds," said Dr. Gopal. "What we have is a chronic problem here."

The long-term solution is already drawn up, but county supervisors voted 4-1 against funding it right now, mainly because it required the county to borrow money in the middle of financial difficulties.

"So our vote was 'Let's wait until we do the budget so we can see how this thing works out,'" said county supervisor Phil Larson. "And now, looking back at the special election ... pretty good idea."

Only Susan Anderson supported taking a loan for the project, hoping to seize on cheap construction and low interest rates. The projected cost is $27 million. That's down almost $6 million over last year's estimate.

To Judy Hoff, that would be money well spent. Her daughter Christie died in March and coroners had to autopsy her body. Judy told Action News she cringes to think of her daughter's body in the same room as those maggots.

"I saw your story yesterday and my daughter made a comment: 'Is that where Christie went?' she said. "And I said, 'Yeah.' I didn't know conditions were so severe."

Exterminators will now come to the office twice a month for the entire summer, but a new building isn't on the county's agenda for now.

Cal-OSHA's inspection report is due in the next two weeks.

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