Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Inquest May Shed Light on Why Manitoba Man Died after 34-Hour ER Wait

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Inquest May Shed Light on Why Manitoba Man Died after 34-Hour ER Wait

Article excerpt

Inquest starts in Manitoba hospital ER death

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WINNIPEG - Winnipeg's health authority has admitted it failed a homeless aboriginal man in a wheelchair who died during a 34-hour wait in a hospital emergency room, but says race or his social status didn't play a role in the lack of treatment.

William Olsen, lawyer for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, told the inquest into the death of Brian Sinclair that no single person was responsible for what happened to the double-amputee.

But he said there is no doubt errors were made.

"A perfect storm occurred," Olsen told Judge Tim Preston Tuesday in his opening statement. "The WRHA failed him ... at all levels of the organization."

Sinclair went to the emergency room of Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre Sept. 19, 2008, with a bladder infection and spoke with a nurse. He stayed in the emergency room waiting room until a fellow patient notified a security guard that he was dead. Preston will hold hearings through August then again in October to determine how Sinclair was dealt with.

Thambirajah Balachandra, Manitoba's medical examiner, told the inquest Sinclair died from an infection because of a blocked catheter. Sinclair needed the tube removed and replaced, along with a prescription for antibiotics, he said.

"From the inception, we knew there was something wrong with the way the patient was handled," Balachandra said. "The death was preventable. Had treatment been given, he would not have died in that way."

Sinclair was soft-spoken and hard to understand, Olsen said. He was also cognitively impaired and fiercely independent, he added.

"That cannot be an excuse for failing to ensure he was properly reviewed by the system as a person requiring care," Olsen said.

The hospital was responsible for Sinclair the minute he walked through the door of the emergency room, he said.

"We failed in that respect," Olsen said.

While some argue Sinclair's race and disability led to him being ignored for 34 hours, Olsen said that wasn't the case.

"These events could have happened to anyone," he said.

But Murray Trachtenberg, lawyer for the Sinclair family, said there is little doubt Sinclair's identity and marginalization led to stereotyping and false assumptions about his need for care. …

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