Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Family turns back on inquest
Sinclair's kin renews call for an inquiry
Brian Sinclair's family wanted an inquiry, but the province said an inquest would give his family all the answers they needed.
Now, after weeks of hearings at an inquest into the death of Sinclair after he waited 36 hours in the Health Sciences Centre's emergency department waiting room without being treated, his family fears their questions will remain unanswered.
Now they're demanding the province order an inquiry.
Robert Sinclair, Brian's cousin, said Tuesday his family no longer has confidence the inquest will get all the answers they were hoping to get, so they will boycott the rest until it gets to final submissions.
The family's decision follows the ruling by provincial court Judge Tim Preston last month to focus the scope of the inquest and restrict the number of witnesses who will testify.
"We hoped to make systemic changes," Sinclair said after he and other family members abruptly left the courtroom.
"Mr. Preston has made a decision not to hear evidence on race, poverty and stigmatism of an individual.
"We came here for the truth. It is obvious we are not going to get the whole truth."
Sinclair said the family is now calling for an inquiry not only into their family member's death, but all the other people who experience racism while getting health care.
Their lawyer, Murray Trachtenberg, said he believes the remainder of the inquest looks like "more a public relations time for the (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority) rather than a catalyst for systemic change."
"In Phase 1 (of the inquest)... we know Brian Sinclair was ignored for 36 hours largely because (hospital workers) made wrong assumptions... now it appears Phase 2 will not look at the biases and attitudes of the hospital workers."
Brian Sinclair went to the Health Sciences Centre on Sept. 19, 2008, after a medical clinic sent him in a taxi to the hospital.
Sinclair, 45, was ignored for 36 hours before he died in the waiting room from a treatable bladder infection caused by a blocked urinary catheter.
Emily Hill, representing Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, and Leslie Spillett of Ka Ni Kanichihk, told Preston his decision has led them to pull out of the inquest completely.
"ALST is disappointed that Phase 2 of the inquest will focus primarily on patient flow rather than the role discrimination may have played," Hill said.
"We can no longer justify using our limited resources participating in this inquest."
"We believed this was a court of justice for Brian Sinclair," Spillett said.
"I still pray there will be justice here, but I fear with the limited number of witnesses being called here I am concerned it will not."
But while calling for an inquiry, Sinclair said the first part of the inquest was not "a waste."
"The truth is there on videotape. How many strangers told the staff this guy is sick and they ignored him? Is that attitude embedded in the system?
"The fight continues. We'll now take different means to get to the truth."
Justice Minister Andrew Swan would not say whether an inquiry will be called.
"I think it's really important that the inquest process finish," Swan said.
"There's already been the first phase, which has heard a lot of evidence. The expectation is that the second phase will expand the scope of the inquest and provide more information. And I believe everybody is hopeful that this independent provincial court judge will come up with recommendations that will improve the system."
Swan said Brian Sinclair's death was a tragedy that could have been prevented. "Although I know our government already has, I want to offer my sincere apologies once again to Brian Sinclair's family," he said.
"There is an inquest underway. It's an independent judicial inquest. I think it's real important that that process continue... and that we learn everything we can from that process."
Meanwhile, Dr. John Sokal, the medical director of the HSC's emergency department, said while the waiting room Sinclair died in was built to handle 40,000 patients per year when it opened in 2007, the number of patients being treated soared to more than 55,000 before measures came in to reduce the numbers.
Sokal said the main problem is patients stay in emergency longer than they should because other patients are stuck in acute-care beds with no community care available to them.
"Ongoing flow isn't just an HSC or WRHA issue -- it is province-wide," he said.
Sokal told the court while staff at the HSC wanted to make physical changes to the waiting room even before Sinclair died, Manitoba Health refused, saying everything had to stay the same for at least a year.
The inquest continues.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2014 B1
Updated on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 8:08 AM CST: Replaces photo
8:53 AM: Adds video
9:38 AM: adds live blog
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