Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL -

Typ­i­cally, an au­topsy is com­pleted a day af­ter ar­riv­ing at the med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice, ex­cept on week­ends, in which case the bod­ies are ex­am­ined the fol­low­ing Mon­day, Happy said.

He told com­mit­tee mem­bers that a fee is nec­es­sary be­cause the Iwilei morgue has been run­ning into space is­sues due to an in­creased num­ber of cases on Oahu, a sit­u­a­tion that forced his agency to pay more than $50,000 last year for out­side stor­age space from pri­vate in­dus­try.

The morgue has space to store about 60 bod­ies. At times, when bod­ies are small enough, two bod­ies may be stored on a rack side by side. “Ob­vi­ously we don’t put two dece­dents on top of each other,” Happy said.

“When those slots be­come filled, the only thing that we can do is move bod­ies to a pri­vate fa­cil­ity,” Happy said, ad­ding that his depart­ment is not bud­geted to pay for that.

It’s a sit­u­a­tion that is en­coun­tered “many times a year,” he said. The av­er­age time it takes for a fu­neral home to re­trieve a body af­ter re­ceiv­ing a con­tract is about 15 days, he said.

The de­lay in pickup times also has in­creased in re­cent years, he said.

The pro­posed fee is com­pa­ra­ble to amounts charged on the main­land, Happy said. San Francisco charges $75 a day, start­ing three days af­ter the body ar­rives at the morgue, while Santa Clara County in

Cal­i­for­nia charges $45 a day, start­ing the day af­ter an au­topsy is com­pleted, he said.

Jay Mor­ford, pres­i­dent of the Hawaii Fu­neral and Ceme­tery As­so­ci­a­tion, said his or­ga­ni­za­tion op­poses the bill as now drafted, but is not against a fee for vi­o­la­tors and is will­ing to work with Happy’s of­fice.

All fu­neral par­lors and mor­tu­ar­ies, as well as hos­pi­tals, in Hawaii have stor­age is­sues, Mor­ford said. Hawaii fam­i­lies are vastly dif­fer­ent from those on the main­land and re­quire longer in­ter­vals be­tween a death and ser­vice due to cul­tural prac­tices and the length of time it takes for loved ones to sched­ule time to be in the state for a cer­e­mony, he said.

Mor­ford said the in­dus­try has had a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with Happy’s agency and in­tends to work co­op­er­a­tively with him on the bill.

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