JASPER, Tenn. - It's hard for anyone to be available to work all of the time, especially a physician.
Marion County Medical Examiner Dr. Rusty Adcock, who has been on the job since the County Commission appointed him in October 2011, told commissioners recently that he needs some backup.
Sequatchie County Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Shepherd normally fills in when Adcock is unavailable, but sometimes both of the doctors are otherwise occupied.
Adcock said he recently attended a conference in Nashville on methods for handling mass casualties, but almost had to miss the meeting because it is so difficult to leave the county when he may be needed at any moment.
"It's kind of hard to be on call 24/7 and 365," he said.
At the conference, Adcock discovered that state law allows the County Commission to approve paramedics, EMTs, physician's assistants or trained medical investigators to cover for him when he is gone.
Last week, the board voted unanimously to approve Jason Nugent, Chris Richardson, Lester Roberts, Zack Warren, and Doug Peacock as assistant medical investigators for the county.
The "highly trained" appointees work for Puckett EMS, which provides ambulance services in the county, Adcock said, and they sometimes work for Adcock Medical Services, which provides medical assistance at the county jail.
"The good news is what I'm asking for doesn't cost the county anything," he said.
Officials said the assistant medical investigators would be paid out of the salary the county already pays Adcock, so there will be no additional cost.
County Attorney Billy Gouger said there will be no liability issues for the county, either.
"If they're filling in for Dr. Adcock, they would be covered by the contractual relationship the county has with his company to provide that service," he said. "They'd be covered under the existing insurance coverage we have in place."
Since the investigators wouldn't be acting as Puckett employees if they were serving the county, there's also no liability for the company, he said.
"We did essentially the same thing for [the county's last medical examiner]," Gouger said. "The board approved them 10 or 12 years ago."
"Dr. Shepherd or I will always be available by phone," Adcock said. "It gets kind of rough having to be there [all the time], but legally, this statute says with [the board's] approval, and if they have the right credentials, they can serve."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.