Sunday, March 05, 2023

Kenneth Fox

Turnaround times for test results at the State Laboratory have slowed down as demand for toxicology reports continues to soar.

As the Irish Examiner reports, the demand from test results as part of the postmortem process for coroners has been steadily increasing year-on-year.

The Laboratory received almost 8,300 samples for analysis last year – up by 8 per cent on the previous year, which was already up 10 per cent on 2021.

A statement from the Laboratory said: “The State Laboratory is unable to respond quickly to the increased sample numbers as the work requires trained experts.

“As a result of the increase in sample numbers, the State Laboratory increased the reporting time from 93 days to 110 days.”

They said the normal timeframe for delivering results is based on a gradual increase in sample numbers of 2 per cent to 3 per cent per year, but the Laboratory has witnessed a much sharper spike in the past three years, coinciding with the arrival of the covid pandemic.

The laboratory tests for the presence of drugs, alcohol, or gases such as carbon monoxide in deaths for the coroner service and for criminal investigations and inquests.

A spokeswoman for the laboratory said it is now working with the Department of Justice and the Office of the State Pathologist to estimate a 5-year forecast for sample numbers “with the purpose of strengthening the State Laboratory’s resource planning to enable a return to 93 days for analysis and reporting”.

The issue was highlighted in a submission made to the Oireachtas Justice Committee by the president of the Coroners Society of Ireland, Frank O’Connell, contained in the recently-published committee’s examination of the inquest process in Ireland.

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