The Westman Laboratory in Brandon, Man., will no longer be performing autopsies, with all autopsy services shifting to Winnipeg, the province’s health agency says.
Shared Health, which oversees autopsy and forensic pathology services in Manitoba, adopted clinical standards earlier this year that require all autopsies to be performed by forensic pathologists. The change was made to ensure a consistent standard of expertise was applied to all cases, a Shared Health spokesperson told CBC News.
Autopsies done in the lab at the Brandon Regional Health Centre were conducted by general pathologists. About 100 autopsies were performed at the centre in the southwestern Manitoba city each year, the spokesperson said.
Those services will now move to either the Health Sciences Centre or St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg because of the new standards, they added.
No one will lose their job because of the shift, according to the spokesperson.
Before Shared Health made the change, any autopsies deemed complex were already sent to Winnipeg. Those cases include the death of a child, police or correctional officer, homicide victims or people who died from “non-accidental trauma.”
Autopsies on people whose identities weren’t confirmed, and those involving remains or potential criminal charges, were also sent to Winnipeg.
With autopsies centralized in Winnipeg, the pathologists in Brandon can now focus more on their main job: anatomical pathology, which includes tasks such as diagnosing cancer, said the spokesperson.
But the union that represents autopsy technical assistants, among other allied health care professionals, says the change is concerning.
The centralization is worrisome, in part, because it looks like more services are being taken away from rural health care, Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals president Bob Moroz said in a news release.
He also wonders what the change will mean for families and funeral directors in western Manitoba, who may have to delay funeral services.
CBC News reported in September 2020 that some families in that part of the province were waiting 10 to 14 days for autopsy. A Shared Health spokesperson told CBC News at the time that from January to August of that year, the typical wait time for an autopsy to be completed was two to five days.
The wait times last fall were caused by a surge of cases that needed more complex forensic investigating and bodies had to be sent to Winnipeg, a Shared Health spokesperson said Friday, but the wait times have improved since then.
Since Shared Health instituted the new standards for autopsies, the average wait time has been less than two days, the spokesperson said.