Hoping to show that Cook County is making efforts to move beyond the tales of horror that included stacked bodies, Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday announced that the morgue has a new $1.4 million cooler and more than two dozen new hires.
"My administration has focused on making the medical examiner's office a model of professionalism and operating efficiency," Preckwinkle said. "We want this office, which handles more than 5,00 cases and performs up to 3,000 autopsies a year, to be one that the taxpayers of Cook County can be proud of."
The office came under fire in January 2012 after leaked photos showed bodies stacked in haphazard fashion, some with limbs exposed. Several families stepped forward saying they had been unable to locate the remains of their loved ones, only to learn they had been in the morgue for weeks.
At the time, Preckwinkle said she was "disturbed, discouraged and disappointed," by the news that the morgue faced such a large inventory and promised a shakeup of staff and operations.
Though many of the problems pre-dated the Preckwinkle administration, the county board president moved swiftly to try to control the controversy.
After Cook County's chief medical examiner suddenly retired from her post that summer, Preckwinkle appointed Dr. Stephen J. Cina, associate medical director and chief administrative officer at the University of Miami’s Tissue Bank.
The office's chief administrator was fired and replaced by Darryl Jackson who Preckwinkle hailed as bringing a raft of administrative expertise to an office sorely in need for organization and reform.
A confidential 2012 state labor department report on conditions at the Cook County Morgue found nearly two dozen violations, ranging from the potential for falling bodies, to improper vaccination procedures for employees, to the potential for blood and body fluids to be splattered around areas where employees worked.