Franklin County will not renew its yearly contract with St. Louis University (SLU) for medical examiner and forensic services, but will instead pay on a month-to-month basis.
The decision comes as the county commission is exploring the options of contracting with a forensic pathologist in St. Francois County.
The month-by-month cost is unknown at this time.
Until this week, the county was also hoping to reach an agreement with Dr. Keith Ratcliff, who has a practice in Washington, to sign death certificates and perform other basic housekeeping duties involved with deaths.
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson said he received an email from Dr. Ratcliff stating he would not be the best candidate for the position, but he would help the commission through the search process.
“He doesn’t think he’s the person to do it because he has a full-time practice,” Hinson said. “He said it’s going to take a lot of time to start up and we should perhaps look for physicians who are partially retired.”
Hinson added the doctor told him the yearly costs for such a physician would be in the $125,000 to $150,000 range.
“He also suggested we get bids from forensic pathologists with all of their ancillary costs included,” Hinson said. “This is going to take quite a bit of time for us to do on our own. We may not get it done this year. I don’t think we should renew the SLU contract, but if we get the ball rolling we might have our own system in place by next year.”
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said the commission must give SLU an answer by the end of the month and directed County Counselor Mark Vincent to draft a letter stating their intentions to contract on a month-by-month basis.
“I’m not at liberty to say what exploratory research is being done,” Griesheimer said. “We are working with other counties.”
He added after their most recent meeting with SLU when a $100,000 price increase was announced, the commission requested SLU send them a detailed breakdown of ancillary costs.
As of Tuesday, that packet had yet to arrive.
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker agreed with his counterparts about paying month to month, and hopes negotiations with SLU will be ongoing.
“When we left the meeting there wasn’t a line drawn in the sand,” Brinker said. “It wasn’t take it or leave it, but we have not had further talks. We’ll continue looking for other solutions.”
For 2017, Franklin County agreed to pay SLU $288,055 for medical examiner services.
The proposed price for 2018 is $388,876.