The Department of Justice is refusing to detail how the State Pathologist’s Office will manage its workload in the wake of the sudden resignation of deputy state pathologist Dr Khalid Jaber.
With fears already expressed for how pathology evidence gathered by Dr Jaber will be presented at upcoming murder trials, there is additional concern about how fresh cases will be handled.
Even with a full complement of staff — the state pathologist, her two deputies and one part-time pathologist — the body of Susan Dunne who was found dead at her Kerry home last week was not attended to by a pathologist for more than eight hours.
The Department of Justice declined to say yesterday whether this was within optimal response times agreed with the State Pathologist’s Office. It also declined to set out how Dr Jaber’s workload would be redistributed or if locum help would be sought.
It said in a statement only that State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy would handle the situation. “She will put the appropriate operational arrangements in place to take account of his [Dr Jaber’s] resignation. The state pathologist is responsible for the precise arrangements made in respect of specific cases.”
The office handled 194 cases last year, a figure that has been almost static since 2008. The statement continued: “The minister considers that a professional and comprehensive pathology service will continue to be delivered.”
The department said it was pursuing the question of finding a replacement for Dr Jaber, but, based on predictions by Dr Cassidy earlier this year, the search will have to go international.
Dr Cassidy warned a seminar in Limerick last April that she and her colleagues, all in their 50s and trained abroad, were heading for a time when they would be thinking about leaving the profession and there was no-one training up to replace them.
She called for her profession to be officially recognised by the Medical Council so that training could be established in Ireland. “There is nobody coming in behind us, so we will have to recruit from outside again,” she said.
Dr Jaber’s resignation was announced on Saturday after it emerged both he and Dr Cassidy had written to the DPP and the Department of Justice raising concerns about each other’s professional competency.
Dr Jaber had also been at the centre of a bullying allegation and was in dispute with local pathology staff in three regional hospitals, who refused to work with him when he attended cases. He has denied allegations about his behaviour.
Fianna Fáil have called on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to make a statement to the Dáil about the issues in the State Pathologist’s Office, but he declined yesterday to say if he would do so.
The office has been promised a new, custom-designed building for the past 20 years, but it has not materialised. The Department said yesterday that the latest plan — to move it the old Whitehall Garda Station — remained on track and it was intended work to refurbish the building would be commenced and completed next year.
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