GBI closing Medical Examiner’s Office in Macon

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) –The Georgia Investigation Bureau is closing its Central Regional Examiner’s Office in Macon.

The Chief Medical Examiner for the GBI, Johnathan Eisenstat, discussed the lab’s closing at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, Wednesday.

Dr. Eisenstat says the lab doesn’t have enough pathologists following the retirement of the Regional Medical Examiner Dr. Kraft.

“We looked at what we can do to keep the macon office running. Could we get more part-time, well I don’t have any applicants for part-time,” said Eisenstat.

He says there aren’t any qualified doctors at the GBI headquarters. According to Eisenstat, to be qualified you need to work at the headquarters for at least 5 years.

“It takes 5 to 10 years after training to fully be engulfed in the job to be able to work on a more independent basis,” said Eisenstat.

Macon-Bibb Coroner Leon Jones says this will disrupt the industry by disappointing families, increasing the workload for the Atlanta lab, and increasing transportation costs.

“We already have a delay in death certificates, the average time now is three months. With the addition of 37 counties, it’s probably going to be 6 to 7 months. So no death certificates being signed without the cause of death, and a delay in funeral arrangements,” explained Jones.

Jones also says the budget for his office will increase.

According to Dougherty County Coroner, Michael Fowler, transporting bodies from Albany to Atlanta instead of Macon will impact his office’s budget.

“Going to Atlanta is going to cost me $550. If we have to leave it, then go back another day to get it, it’s going to cost almost $1000 per case,” said Fowler.

Fowler says transporting to Macon is more efficient.

“If you got to Atlanta they may have 30 cases that day,” explained Fowler.

Lowndes County Coroner, Austin Fiveash, says closing down 1 of 3 offices puts a strain on all state labs.

“In 10 years I think we lost about 4, 5, or 6 labs. They were all under the same guys and they were going to reopen, they were never reopened and if we lose Macon it won’t reopen. So we have to avoid it at all cost at this point,” said Fiveash.

The Coroners say they hope the final decision includes sending a medical examiner to the Macon lab at least three days a week.

Dr. Eisentat says the lab will close October 1, but hopes it’s just temporary.