Lawmaker works to resolve death certificate delays after FOX59 investigation

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (march 24, 2015)-- FOX59 is getting results after our investigation found some families were waiting months for death certificates. Tuesday morning, Sen. Patricia Miller (R - Indianapolis) lead a roundtable meeting of health and medical officials, coroners, and funeral directors to discuss the issue. Miller is the chair of the Health & Provider Services committee.

"'I feel very good about the meeting. It's a start," she said.

She found that 3.5% of Hoosiers wait more than 10 days to get a death certificate for a loved one. That's hundreds of thousands of loved ones, like Randy Stokes, left wondering. Stokes told FOX59 he waited nearly a month before he could cremate his older brother.

Eventually, a physician finally signed off and Stokes and his family were able to move on. However, sometimes death certificates are sent to the county coroner.

Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew spoke with FOX59’s Aishah Hasnie about how the extra workload has become an issue.

“We’ve seen an increase of probably about 20% to 30% of cases that we are reviewing that have not actually been coroner cases,” said Ballew. “It does cause a significant backlog.”

The question is who should be held responsible for signing the death certificate; the physician or the coroner?

"Some of the things that we’re looking at is how we can continue the dialogue we started this morning to do a better job and communicating, to make sure for example if it’s between an emergency room doc or the coroner, that there’s dialogue there and that it is resolved more quickly.

Sen. Miller said while there won't be a quick fix, she is pushing for more communication and has asked the Indiana State Medical Association to assist.

"For example, if a coroner's office has an issue, and they want to talk to a doctor, we've put in a system where they can deal with the State Medical Association and (they)l will help work through all that," she explained. "So we came out of the meeting with a good understanding that all the people in the room were going to work together to try to resolve the problem."

Sen. Miller plans to continue the dialogue through the summer and work with the State Department of Health to resolve the issues.