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Report: Conditions At Cook County Morgue Left Preckwinkle ‘Jarred’

Toni Preckwinkle

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announces a shakeup at the Medical Examiner’s office. (Credit: Regine Schlesinger/WBBM Newsradio/CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A published report says the findings of an audit of the Cook County morgue left Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle “jarred.”

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, at a news conference Tuesday, Preckwinkle did not got into specifics about conditions found in an audit of the morgue, at 2121 W. Harrison St.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

But Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reports the morgue was a “house of horrors” that nearly caused Preckwinkle’s “knees to buckle” upon seeing the report by the Illinois Department of Labor.

Sneed’s column included several dramatic descriptions about what was found in the morgue. They included “body parts in plastic bags tossed on a cooler floor, corpse-carrying forklifts driven by untrained workers crashing into shelves holding the dead, autopsy instruments smeared with bodily fluids strewn haphazardly,” and “dead bodies stacked unceremoniously in coolers,” among other ghastly sights, Sneed wrote.

The report said morgue was also a potential breeding ground for dangerous communicable diseases, according to Sneed.

The report also said the Medical Examiner’s office did not keep worker injury logs. A source familiar with the report told Sneed that an office employee could become infected with HIV or a communicable disease due to a body dripping fluid or a carelessly placed autopsy instrument.

On Tuesday, Preckwinkle announced that Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Nancy Jones will be stepping down at the end of next month.

Jones came under fire back in January for mismanagement, after bodies were found piled up and stacked upon each other at the morgue, at 2121 W. Harrison St.

Also out at the Medical Examiner’s office is Kimberly Jackson, the executive officer at the morgue, who was responsible for indigent burials. Jackson was asked to resign.

Preckwinkle also announced new health and safety procedures for the Medical Examiner’s office.

“I believe you will see an improvement in the operations of the facility,” Preckwinkle said. “As I’ve said, we’ve done a thorough review over the last six months to try to figure out exactly where we are.”

Preckwinkle also announced that four Medical Examiner’s office employees have been fired.

She says a nationwide search for Jones’ replacement is now underway.