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Article updated: 10/12/2012 3:54 PM

Martinez, Russell debate hospice deaths, restoring trust

By James Fuller

Kane County coroner candidates revealed different approaches to cleaning up the image of the office at a forum Thursday night. Public trust of the coroner slumped following the indictment of now-deceased coroner Chuck West on felony misconduct charges related to a missing television from a dead man's home.

Republican Rob Russell said he believes the staff of the coroner's office should be applauded for working through the cloud that followed the indictment.

"The problems with this office hasn't been with the employees," Russell said. "The problems in this office have to do with the previous leader."

Russell pushed the idea of having the coroner's office accredited through an association of coroners. That accreditation would reveal best practices that may or may not be in place at the Kane County agency, he said.

Democrat Tao Martinez said the skills he's acquired in running his own business mean he'll be able to create efficiencies and best practices in the office without paying an outside organization. One change he already thinks is necessary is taking a closer look at deaths in nursing homes and hospice care.

Martinez said currently the coroner's staff is only informed of deaths in those facilities by phone, and it's taken for granted that nothing suspicious happened.

"There are a lot of deaths that may be falling between the cracks," Martinez said. "A lot of them are attributed to negligence and to abuse. If we don't send our deputies out to verify, we can't be certain."

Russell said spending more time on nursing homes and hospice care deaths is an inefficient use of the office.

"There are nurses there," Russell said. "If any one of those people see anything that would be suspicious, then obviously we're going to send someone out to take a look at that. We're not going out to every hospice death."

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