A proposed $100,000 rate hike from St. Louis University (SLU) has led the Franklin County Commission to weigh other forensic medical options.
At a recent meeting, all parties currently involved with deaths in Franklin County met with two medical professionals to possibly fill the role SLU has played for nearly 25 years.
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson said there are no numbers on the table, but felt positive about a change and potential new partnerships.
“Every person at the meeting except one was from Franklin County,” Hinson said. “For years we’ve been sending our money to St. Louis. The costs keep going up and the services get less and less. This would at least bring the money back into Franklin County.”
Included in the meeting were two physicians who would fill separate medical roles needed by the county.
Dr. Keith Ratcliff, who has a practice in Washington, may be a choice to sign death certificates and perform other basic housekeeping duties involved with deaths.
In the forensic pathologist role, the county met with Dr. Russell Deidiker, Farmington, who currently provides pathology services for 20 counties in southwest Missouri.
“We don’t have any forensic pathologists in the county,” Hinson said. “They are few and far between. I don’t want to be held over a barrel by SLU. This isn’t just about the money. We are doing our due diligence.”
Hinson added there may be hiccups along the way during the potential transition, but the fear of change shouldn’t stop the county from looking at options.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer didn’t seem as optimistic as Hinson, but says the county can’t swallow the $110,000 increase for services.
“What if they (SLU) raise it again next year?” Griesheimer said. “We’ve had a great relationship and the small increases have been manageable. But it’s a lot of money.”
Griesheimer added he still hopes to join forces with neighboring St. Charles and Jefferson counties, which will also see increases.
“I think the meeting went well,” he said. “But we do have other options. We need to keep the doors and the channels open and find the right combination.”
At the Table
In addition to the commissioners and doctors at the meeting, were representatives from the sheriff’s office, who are usually involved in some capacity when there is a death.
Assistant medical examiners, who serve as trained deputies under the SLU umbrella also had their say as well as Nancy Russell, owner of Russell Colonial Funeral Home in St. Clair.
The funeral home currently provides transportation services to the medical examiner’s office in St. Louis County.
If the commission does make the switch to Dr. Deidiker, bodies would be transported to a facility at his disposal in St. Francois County.
Many of the same parties plan to meet again on the same subjects next week.