Inquest may shed light on why Manitoba man died after 34-hour ER wait

WINNIPEG – The family of a Winnipeg man who died in a hospital emergency room while waiting for treatment is looking for answers from a provincial inquest that starts today.

The inquest, led by a provincial court judge, is to examine what happened between the time Brian Sinclair came to the ER and the discovery of his death 34 hours later.

The lawyer for Sinclair’s family, Vilko Zbogar, says the hope is the inquest will identify ways to prevent similar deaths.

Sinclair, a 45-year-old double amputee, was in a wheelchair when he went to the emergency department at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre in September 2008.

Hospital security tape showed Sinclair went to the triage desk and spoke to an aide before wheeling himself into the waiting room.

That appears to have been his only interaction with staff.

Almost a day and a half later, another person in the waiting room approached a security guard to say Sinclair appeared to be dead. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Sinclair’s death was attributed to a treatable bladder infection. Manitoba’s chief medical examiner said Sinclair would have lived if his blocked catheter had been changed and his infection treated.

Zbogar said he hopes the inquest shows exactly what went wrong and whether Sinclair was treated differently because he was a low-income aboriginal.

“There will be some analysis of the systemic issues … whether his race, his disability, his socio-economic status affected the treatment he received — or the indifference he received.”

Police and the Crown attorneys office investigated the death to see if charges of criminal negligence or failing to provide the necessities of life might have applied. But they decided no charges were warranted.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has paid $110,000 in damages to the Sinclair family for loss of care, guidance and companionship.