A Wagga funeral director says he has seen no improvement in wait times for families whose loved ones need to be taken to Newcastle for full coronial autopsies.
John Bance & Son Funeral Home's Scott Bance said some families were still being "left in limbo" by an up to two week turnaround for the autopsy process to be completed.
A coronial task force was established almost a year ago to investigate autopsy delays, in part due to local advocacy and a push from MPs including Wagga's Joe McGirr.
The task force in late January successfully implemented two amendments to the NSW Coroners Act (2009).
Attorney General Mark Speakman said the changes were designed to "remove unnecessary red tape" and have deceased people returned to rural families sooner.
The first amendment meant deaths no longer need to be reported to the coroner if the deceased person had not seen a doctor in the six months prior to their passing.
The second amendment allows a forensic pathologist to undertake preliminary examinations of deceased people without the need for a direction from the coroner.
However, Riverina locals say they want to see Wagga hospital equipped to handle at least those coronial autopsies which require external examinations only, such as CT scans or toxicology testing.
Mr Bance said it seemed "a bit ludicrous" that people were being "sent to mid-coast NSW for our postmortem examinations".
"I don't know whether it's just as simple as sending a new pathologist down this way, but [the coronial process] seems to have been centralised in lots of things and that's probably why we've come under the jurisdiction of Newcastle," he said.
"The time delays aren't so much in the transferring of people back and forth, it's actually within the systems themselves."
NSW Health Pathology's Forensic & Analytical Science Service has a rural triage centre to help avoid unnecessary transfers of deceased people from rural and remote areas, which Mr Bance said was "a real positive".
"Before that everything was a full postmortem examination. The triage system has made everything a lot better," he said.
However he said a full autopsy facility in southern NSW would "expedite things" for bereaved families who had often lost someone under tragic or unexpected circumstances and might have to wait days for the triage service to decide whether or not the deceased person needed to be sent to Newcastle.
Gundagai's Jill Jones has been a vocal supporter of opening a coronial pathology lab in Wagga since losing her son Mark in a car accident in 2017.
Mrs Jones said she had put her advocacy on hold due to the the rolling crises of the fires and coronavirus.
"The only reason that I haven't kept going with it, because I really do believe we need to help those that need help at the moment and I'm all for that," she said.
Mrs Jones had to wait two weeks for her son's body to be returned from the NSW Health Pathology lab in Newcastle and wants to prevent other grieving families from experiencing the distress caused by delays.
"Once that's cleared I certainly will be back to try and help to open the pathology department up at the hospital [for] those who have had to wait for so long," she said.
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NSW Health Pathology's Forensic & Analytical Science Service executive director Michael Symonds said the relevant departments understood the death of a loved one was "a very difficult time".
"We make best use of our highly specialised teams and equipment to ensure bereaved families and coroners receive the answers they need in a timely, respectful way," Mr Symonds said.
"Coronial post-mortem examinations are usually carried out within three to five working days of the deceased person being admitted to one of the state's three dedicated Forensic Medicine facilities in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong."
Mr Symonds said coronial examinations could only be performed by highly qualified specialists: forensic pathologists with the support of technicians, social workers, clinical nurse consultants, radiographers and administrative staff.
"This model ensures the highest quality service for the people of NSW and makes best use of highly specialised forensic medicine resources," he said.
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said he would continue to push for improved wait times for bereaved local families, though he said NSW Health had been understandably preoccupied with dealing with coronavirus.
"We're hoping that in more straightforward cases we can avoid the transfer of the body," Dr McGirr said.
"How we support people in the early phases of that period, that trauma [of losing someone] is an important part of how they cope with it going on."
Dr McGirr said the task force was set up to examine ways in which the transfer of deceased people could take place more quickly, or be avoided where possible.