Minister for Courts, Rino Tirikatene, has welcomed the Ministry of Justice’s appointment of Dr Garry Clearwater as New Zealand’s first Chief Clinical Advisor working with the Coroners Court.
“This appointment is significant for the Coroners Court and New Zealand’s wider coronial system,” Minister Tirikatene said.
Through Budget 2022, the Government announced a package of investment to improve the coronial system and reduce delays for grieving families and whānau, including establishing a team of Clinical Advisors.
For the past year, the Ministry of Justice has been working on reducing the number of ‘natural cause’ deaths that are referred to the duty coroner and must be accepted into the jurisdiction in the absence of a doctor’s certificate. These referrals contribute to backlogs in the system, causing undue delays and stress for families and whānau during a time of grief and loss.
One part of this project was to establish a team of Clinical Advisors to address the issue. The team of Clinical Advisors will work to improve the clinical information available to coroners and will help decrease the number of active cases within the system.
Dr Clearwater (pictured) will lead the Clinical Advisor team as Chief Clinical Advisor. He is an emergency medicine specialist and former Waitematā District Health Board Emergency Department Clinical Director with 25 years’ experience as a Medical Referee, providing advice to clinicians on death certification. He also holds a Master of Laws in Healthcare, Law and Ethics; is a Fellow of the Australasian College of Legal Medicine; and, has extensive experience in developing and delivering training and education to other health professionals.
In his new role, Dr Clearwater and his team will:
- work alongside coroners and forensic pathologists to ensure coroners have high quality clinical information to support decisions, such as whether to accept or decline jurisdiction, or whether a post-mortem examination is required;
- support coroners with the clinical aspects of their case work; and
- deliver educational initiatives to health professionals to improve awareness of coronial processes.
“I am hopeful that the introduction of the Clinical Advisor team will have enduring benefits across the coronial system, helping to reduce the coronial caseload and provide grieving families and whānau with answers sooner,” Minister Tirikatene said.
Dr Clearwater started in the Chief Clinical Advisor last week and will shortly begin recruitment for the rest of the Clinical Advisor team.