Recognition Follows Operational Changes, Added Staffing and Technological Upgrades
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced the County Medical Examiner’s Office has been awarded full accreditation by the National Association of Medical Examiners, known as NAME.
Full accreditation recognizes that the office has met or exceeds national standards in key areas of operations, staffing and procedures.
The professional recognition comes just over three years after President Preckwinke and Dr. Stephen Cina, the Chief Cook County Medical Examiner, vowed to attain the national accreditation. Two years ago, the Office was given provisional accreditation by NAME.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that for the first time since 2011, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has achieved full accreditation,” President Preckwinkle said. “This announcement speaks to the institutional integrity of the Medical Examiner’s office but most importantly, it should serve as an assurance to those whose loved ones pass through the Medical Examiner’s Office that the deceased are treated with dignity, care and respect.”
Dr. Cina was hired in September 2012. Since then, Preckwinkle said he has instituted new policies and procedures, raised expectations of employee performance, upgraded operations and technology, and brought a culture of change to the office.
The County has also invested in the office through additional staffing and equipment. A $1.4 million state-of-the-art cooler has replaced 30-year-old infrastructure and the office now uses a $900,000 cutting-edge, cloud-based case management system that tracks each case from the moment it’s called into the office until the decedent is released to a funeral home.
“With the support of President Preckwinkle and the Board of Commissioners, our office has met the standards set by NAME for full accreditation, the most rigorous criteria in the country for a medicolegal death investigation system,” Dr. Cina said. “We have done this in a fiscally responsible manner, adding new technology and staffing, while still operating at a budgetary level that is more than $5 million below what is expected for a NAME-accredited office serving a population of over five million people.”
Full national accreditation reinforces the institutional integrity of the Medical Examiner’s office.
· Inspires public confidence that best practices are in place and are being followed.
· Provides credibility when Dr. Cina or another one of our pathologists has to testify in court.
· Demonstrates that key standards and measures are being followed to ensure that pathologists’ caseloads allow for quality work.
· Puts us into play for grant funding and sustains our fellowship program.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office is now the only medical examiner’s or coroner’s office in Illinois to have full NAME accreditation, said Dr. David Fowler, president of NAME and the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland.
“Would you take your family to a non-accredited hospital or an unlicensed physician? The ME’s office is no different. It is a 24-hour emergency medical system and should be held to similar standards,” Dr. Fowler said. “Achieving accreditation shows your commitment to ensure that your population is receiving the best care possible.”
Dr. Cina vows his office will maintain its accreditation and continue to be a leader in the field of forensic pathology and medicolegal investigation.
“Every day we strive to improve and recommit ourselves to exceptional patient care, compassionate customer service, integration of state-of-the-art forensic science modalities, improving public health and fostering a spirit of professionalism, dignity and respect for the deceased within our office,” Dr. Cina said.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office investigates more than 5,000 cases per year and performed nearly 3,000 autopsies in 2015.