LaGRANGE, Ga. (WRBL) – Troup County recently approved the purchase of a permanent morgue facility to be housed at Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center. The morgue will be paid for with the funds received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The decision came after an increase in deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic and drug overdoses.
Erin Hackley, the Troup County Coroner, said due to an increase of deaths in the area it was important to make the purchase. She said since Aug. 1, 2021 there have been 141 deaths in Troup County which this time last year they were averaging about 25 deaths a month.
“The biggest benefit is we will have space available for the citizens of Troup County, we won’t have to utilize private space, there will be cost saving for transport as well,” said Hackley.
The Coroner’s Office is currently sharing the hospital morgue space at Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center; they utilize about three or four spaces. When the hospital’s morgue is full the Coroner’s Office then branches out to privately-owned funeral homes and county-owned morgues in neighboring counties. The new morgue and the one shared with Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center will provide the Coroner’s Office with about 15-16 spaces for bodies.
Amy Sheppard, the Chief Deputy Coroner for the Troup County Coroner’s Office, said since Sept. 1, 2021, she has received 20 death calls. She also said the new morgue will just be housed at the hospital but will be independent of the hospital facilities.
“Our new one will be a closed system, it is basically a walk in cooler. It is not vented into the hospital’s ventilation system. In certain cases with people that may have been dead for a long time or that have died and have burns or whatever we have a place to put those. We don’t have to frantically call all the funeral homes and ask the surrounding counties if we can borrow morgue space,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard said she hopes not to have to use all the shelves at once but it is good to know they are available if needed.
Hackley also emphasized how important this morgue can be in the event of a mass causalty. She said in the event that there are multiple deaths like in a major accident they can count on 15-16 shelves.