NEWS

Inquest told Winnipeg man who died in emergency room ignored most of 34 hours

08/27/2013 11:56 EDT | Updated 10/27/2013 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - An inquest was told Tuesday that a man who died in a hospital emergency room was ignored almost the entire 34 hours he was waiting for care, even when he threw up three times.

Sgt. John O'Donovan said 150 people moved through the ER the weekend Brian Sinclair died, but he was the only one who didn't receive medical treatment.

O'Donovan, who watched the surveillance footage of Sinclair's time at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre in September 2008, said the video shows no one paid attention to the double amputee while he languished in the emergency department.

"He was the only person who wasn't provided medical treatment," O'Donovan testified. "I don't know if he was being ignored on purpose. They weren't aware of him there. He was ignored during his time there."

Sinclair went to the emergency room because he hadn't urinated in 24 hours. The video footage shows Sinclair arriving at the hospital by taxi and speaking to a triage aide. The aide appears to take notes on a pad of paper.

The sick man wheeled himself into the waiting room where he remained until he was discovered dead 34 hours later.

Manitoba's chief medical examiner has testified the 45-year-old died from a treatable bladder infection caused by a blocked catheter. He said Sinclair needed about half-an-hour of medical treatment, including a catheter change and a prescription for antibiotics.

After Sinclair had been waiting for almost 24 hours, he vomited on himself three times, O'Donovan said. Medical staff moved in and out of the waiting room during that period, but never approached Sinclair, O'Donovan added.

"They were aware he had thrown up. He was provided with a basin by a member of the cleaning staff."

Arlene Wilgosh, president of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, was in court for the video and said she found it disturbing. She also said she it was "concerning" that Sinclair vomited on himself three times but was never examined by medical staff.

"I found the video difficult to watch," she said. "Mr. Sinclair came to us seeking care. As we've said before, we failed to provide that care, so I did find the video difficult to watch."

The hospital has significantly changed the way it triages ER patients and no longer relies on pads of paper to keep track of people seeking care, Wilgosh said. Names are now entered electronically and people are given a wristband to help keep track of who needs to be triaged.

Staff also routinely go through the waiting room to reassess those who are waiting, she added.

"We are accountable," Wilgosh said. "We have put in measures to try and ensure this does not happen again."

Sinclair family lawyer Vilko Zbogar pointed out that six minutes of surveillance footage, covering the time when Sinclair was found dead and was wheeled away, are missing. O'Donovan said he hadn't noticed the missing footage before and didn't know why it is missing since the cameras were apparently working.

Norman Schatz, head of security at Health Sciences Centre, told the inquest the cameras record only when they detect motion. Sinclair was seated underneath the camera and wasn't visible unless the camera scanned the room.

"One can assume there was no motion during that six minutes."

Police spent a year investigating Sinclair's death. No criminal charges were laid.

The inquest has heard Sinclair had a difficult life. He abused solvents which caused brain damage, lived on the street and lost both his legs to frostbite when he was found frozen to the wall of a church in the dead of winter.

The inquest is to sit until Thursday and resume again in October.

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