August 23rd, 2019

Horwath calls for Hamilton forensics unit closure to be stopped, public review launched

National Post breaks troubling allegation that damaging closure was sparked by revenge

Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on Doug Ford to immediately halt the planned shutdown of the Hamilton Health Sciences forensic pathology unit, and launch a full public review of the proposed closure.

Horwath’s call comes not only as the looming cut threatens to make the system worse for grieving families, and more expensive for police forces and municipalities — but also as new allegations surface indicating the closure could be retribution against witnesses in a complaint against Ontario’s top forensic pathologist and coroner.

“I’ve been fighting the closure of the Hamilton Health Sciences forensic pathology unit because of the extra pain and hardship it’s going to cause families in the Hamilton and Niagara regions,” said Horwath. “Having to travel to Toronto, and arranging to bring the remains of your loved one back home to be laid to rest — those are stresses that families already living a nightmare shouldn’t have to face.

“But now, in light of very troubling new allegations that this closure could be rooted in revenge, I’m calling not only for the closure to be completely stopped, but also for a full, public review of this decision, and how it was made.”

According to a report in the National Post, forensic pathologists who worked at the Hamilton facility say the unit is being closed because they were witnesses in a complaint against Ontario’s top forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Pollanen, and the province’s top coroner, Dr. Dirk Huyer.

“These allegations are incredibly serious, and we need to get to the bottom of them,” said Horwath. “A cloud of suspicion hangs over the motivation behind the forensic unit’s closure, and Ontarians have certainly had enough backroom deals and revenge plots under the Ford administration.”

Municipal and police budgets could take another major blow as a result of transferring cases to the new Forensic Services and Coroners Complex in northwest Toronto, at a time when municipalities are already coping with a spate of Ford cuts and cost-downloads. The planned shutdown could also result in backlogs and delays in death investigations.

The busy Hamilton forensics unit is one of seven forensic regional pathology facilities in the province, and performs medical-legal autopsies and investigations in sudden or suspicious deaths.