POLITICS

Inquest hears triage aide doesn't remember Winnipeg man who died in hospital ER

10/16/2013 11:18 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
WINNIPEG - A triage aide who was the first to talk to a man who died during a 34-hour wait in a hospital's emergency room says he doesn't remember him at all — even though he looked in his direction many times over two 12-hour shifts.

Jordan Loechner told an inquest into the death of Brian Sinclair that he doesn't remember speaking to the double-amputee on Sept. 19, 2008, nor does he remember seeing him languishing in the waiting room over the next two days.

Video surveillance shows Loechner speaking to Sinclair for less than a minute when Sinclair first arrives at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre. Loechner then writes something on a piece of paper.

Sinclair — a double-amputee — is seen wheeling himself into the waiting room. But he was never called back to the triage desk or given medical care.

The piece of paper has never been found.

Loechner was shown many video clips Wednesday which appear to show him looking in Sinclair's direction as he goes about his duties in the emergency department. But he said he doesn't remember ever seeing Sinclair or noting he was still waiting to be triaged.

Loechner said video surveillance shown to him shortly after Sinclair's death didn't jog his memory.

"I didn't remember speaking to him in the first place," he said.

Loechner's job was to take the names, times of arrival and chief complaints of people coming into the emergency department if the triage nurse was busy. Loechner said he would pass the information to the triage nurse, so patients could be called back to the desk after the nurse had time to assess their conditions.

He said he can't remember doing this when Sinclair arrived.

"I don't recall taking down his name," said Loechner, who now works as a paramedic. "I talked to many people."

"How many people did you speak with over these two days who had no legs?" asked Sinclair family lawyer Vilko Zbogar.

"I'm not sure," said Loechner. "I don't count that."

"How many other people did you speak two over these two days who ended up dying?" Zbogar asked.

"I don't recall," Loechner responded.

"Were you or are you now suffering from any impairment which affects your memory?" Zbogar continued.

"No," Loechner said.

Although his memory of that weekend is fuzzy, Loechner was adamant Sinclair's lack of treatment had nothing to do with his being aboriginal.

"I'm not a racist," Loechner said. "I don't believe race played a factor."

A clinic doctor had referred Sinclair to the hospital ER because he hadn't urinated in 24 hours. Sinclair died of a treatable bladder infection caused by a blocked catheter.

Manitoba's chief medical examiner has testified Sinclair had died hours earlier and rigor mortis had set in by the time he was discovered. Although he vomited several times as his condition deteriorated during his lengthy wait, Sinclair wasn't seen by a nurse or doctor until it was too late.

During his second 12-hour shift in the emergency room, Loechner was approached by a security guard who said Sinclair needed a basin because he was vomiting. The security guard ended up getting the basin because Loechner was busy.

Loechner said he remembered that encounter, but doesn't remember the security guard telling him someone in the waiting room "didn't look good."

"So you have a recollection of a kidney basin but no recollection of a double-amputee on his death bed? That's what you're telling me?" Zbogar said.

"Correct," Loechner said.

He agreed it was part of his job to report a patient vomiting to the triage nurse, but said he can't remember if he told anyone.

"It was a very busy day."

Under questioning by Zbogar, Loechner said he found out Sinclair had died when he came to work Sept. 21, but he can't remember who told him. Loechner said he also didn't remember talking to a security guard that day who was compiling a report on the death.

Loechner spoke with several hospital administrators on Sept. 23 about what had happened and apparently told them he had written down Sinclair's name. But Loechner said he didn't remember who he spoke to or telling them he took Sinclair's name.

"I had many 30-second conversations with many people that day," Loechner said. "To pinpoint and remember one person is pretty difficult."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Loechner spoke with a security guard during his first shift.