VENTURA, Calif. – The Office of the Ventura County Medical Examiner has received a $24,500 donation from the Kaiser Permanente Foundation to increase the office’s body storage capacity in the event of a mass fatality incident or disaster.
“The Medical Examiner facility in Ventura is able to accommodate the daily work flow but is pushed to capacity at times due to an increase in population over the past three decades,” said Dr. Christopher Young, Chief Medical Examiner. “Our County was fortunate that there were not more deaths related to the Thomas Fire. Had we experienced the number of fire related casualties as neighboring Santa Barbara County, our storage space may have been overwhelmed.”
The donation from Kaiser Permanente will contribute toward more than doubling the body storage capacity. Currently the office can store 16 bodies on individual gurneys. The funds will be used toward purchasing a combination of permanent and collapsible racks with trays to maximize the facilities’ current refrigeration space. An estimated $65,000 in improvements will increase the capacity to 48 bodies. The balance of the funding will come from the office’s approved department budget. The vision of Medical Examiner’s Office is to eventually implement a mobile cooling unit to increase the overall storage capacity to between 75 and 100 bodies when additional capacity is required.
“The new racks and trays will allow the Medical Examiner’s Office to store and transport significantly more bodies during mass fatality incidents,” said Dr. Renee Higgins, Medical Examiner Administrator. “We will be able to compassionately serve the needs of the ever-growing Ventura County community and also assist neighboring jurisdictions in their time of need.”
The donation was made in part due to the efforts of the Health Care Foundation for Ventura County. It is a foundation that exclusively benefits the Ventura County Health Care Agency and, especially, the Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital.
“Generous grants from community partners like Kaiser Permanente allow us to serve more Ventura County residents with their health care needs,” said Amy Towner, CEO of the Health Care Foundation. “Nobody likes to talk about end-of-life issues, but the needs there are real, and the public is depending on us, especially during times of crisis.”