AN ACT TO REFORM THE NORTH CAROLINA MEDICAL EXAMINER SYSTEM BY (1) ESTABLISHING A REGIONAL OFFICE STRUCTURE; (2) REQUIRING THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER (OCME) TO OBTAIN AND MAINTAIN NATIONAL ACCREDITATION; (3) ESTABLISHING MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS, CONTINUING EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS, AND TRAINING REQUIREMENTS FOR PERSONNEL CONDUCTING DEATH INVESTIGATIONS AND AUTOPSIES; (4) INCREASING THE NUMBER OF FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT POSITIONS WITHIN OCME DEDICATED TO PERFORMING AND ASSISTING WITH DEATH INVESTIGATIONS AND AUTOPSIES; (5) APPROPRIATING FUNDS TO IMPLEMENT THESE REFORMS; AND (6) ESTABLISHING REPORTING REQUIREMENTS TO MONITOR THE STATUS OF REFORM IMPLEMENTATION.
Reforms the North Carolina Medical Examiner System (MES) as the title indicates.
Amends GS 130A-377 to direct the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to establish and maintain five regional offices, including a central office (was, organizational structure consisted of a central office and district offices as considered necessary by DHHS) to ensure that postmortem medico-legal examinations and services are available and properly managed in all regions of the state.
Amends GS 130A-378 to clarify that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) appoints the Chief Medical Examiner (CME). Adds a requirement that in order to maintain the appointment as CME, the CME must fulfill continuing education requirements of GS 130A-382 and carry out the duties and responsibilities set out in Article 16 (Postmortem Investigation and Disposition) of GS Chapter 130A and as assigned by the Secretary.
Amends GS 130A-379 to specify that the duties and powers of the CME include: (1) ensuring that the Office of the CME obtains and maintains accreditation by the National Association of Medical Examiners or an alternative national entity offering accreditation approved by the Secretary and (2) performing autopsies but limits the number of autopsies performed by the CME to no more than 100 autopsies annually. Permits the CME to assume primary responsibility for any case under the jurisdiction of the Office of the CME within the restrictions as indicated regarding the total number of autopsies that the CME may perform in a single year.
Requires the CME to employ board-certified forensic pathologists, medical examiners, medico-legal death investigators, and administrative personnel to serve as staff in each of the regional offices. Additionally provides that the CME may employ forensic chemists to provide toxicological and related support to the regional offices.
Amends GS 130A-382 to provide that the CME is to hire (was, CME appointed county medical examiners for a three-year term) county medical examiners based on qualifications and training of the applicants. Directs DHHS to establish continuing education requirements for medical examiners employed by the Office of the CME.Provides additional criteria regarding continuing education requirements, including a mandatory, annual in-service training program for medical examiners. Requires that each medical examiner be assigned to a specific regional office at the direction of the CME based on the total population of each region.
Enacts new GS 130A-382A, which requires the CME to assign medico-legal death investigators to each of the regional offices. Provides details as to the required qualifications, the duties, certification requirements, and continuing education requirements for persons filling positions as medico-legal death investigators.
Provides that regardless of the provisions of GS 130A-382A as enacted by this act, a person hired as a medico-legal death investigator between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2019, who has served as a coroner in North Carolina, has two years from the date of hire to successfully complete the certification program established by DHHS under GS 130A-382A(d), as amended by this act. Effective July 1, 2015.
Amends GS 130A-383 regarding the jurisdiction of a medical examiner. Clarifies circumstances under which a death occurs or is believed to have occurred that requires notifying the nearest regional medical examiner's office.
Amends GS 130A-385 to specify the duties of the medico-legal death investigator as well as those of the medical examiner upon receipt of a notice of a death under GS 130A-383, as amended by this act.
Changes to Medical Examiner Investigation and Autopsy Fees
Amends GS 130A-387 to increase the fee to be paid to a medical examiner for each investigation and prompt filing of the required report to $250 (was, $100). Specifies that this fee does not apply to investigations and reports completed by employees of the Office of the CME. Directs the Office of the CME to use its own employees to complete investigations and required reports to the maximum extent possible. Effective July 1, 2015; however, repeals GS 130A-387, as amended by this act, effective July 1, 2019.
Amends GS 130A-389 to set the fee for an autopsy as $2,800 (was, $1,250). Provides that this fee does not apply to autopsies or other studies performed by employees of the office of the CME. Directs the Office of the CME to use its own employees to complete these autopsies and other studies to the maximum extent possible. Effective July 1, 2015; however, repeals GS 130A-389, as amended by this act, effective July 1, 2019.
Status Report on Implementation of Organizational Changes
Declares that it is the intent of the General Assembly to have the Office of the CME achieve full implementation of the organizational changes in this act by July 1, 2019. Requires that the Office of the CME , beginning January 2016, and every six months thereafter until the organizational changes are fully implemented, provide status reports to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services and the Fiscal Research Division. Specifies minimal information and data on the progress of the organizational changes to be covered in the status reports. Effective July 1, 2015.
Effective July 1, 2015, appropriates funds in unspecified amounts from the General Fund to DHHS, Division of Public Health, Office of the CME, to establish additional full-time equivalent positions for forensic pathologists, medical examiners, and certified medico-legal death investigator positions. Also appropriates an unspecified amount of funds from the General Fund to DHHS, Division of Public Health, Office of the CME, to establish forensic pathologist fellowships at the state's regional autopsy centers located at Wake Forest University and East Carolina University. Appropriates an unspecified amount of funds from the General Fund to DHHS, Division of Public Health, Office of the CME, to fund the increase in the death investigation fee and also appropriates an unspecified amount from the General Fund to DHHS, Division of Public Health, Office of the CME, to fund the increase in the autopsy fee. Provides that each of these unspecified amount appropriations are for the 2015-16and the 2016-17 fiscal years. Provides that the effective date for all of the appropriations is July 1, 2015.
Except as otherwise indicated, the remainder of this act becomes effective July 1, 2019.
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