Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fellow chair-bound man treated before Sinclair

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Brian Sinclair's pants were wet, he stank of urine and he threw up several times, but he wasn't seen by a doctor or nurse for the 34 hours he waited in Health Sciences Centre's emergency waiting room.

Sinclair, 45, died in the waiting room without being seen.

About 24 hours after Sinclair arrived, another man waiting in a wheelchair behind Sinclair, needing the bandages covering burns on his legs from a fire to be changed, was in and out of emergency in little more than three hours.

The difference between the two men?

The burn victim had his mother with him and she pushed a few times for hospital staff to see him faster.

Diane Bell told an inquest on Wednesday she remembers Sinclair, but mostly because she wanted to get her son away from him -- and others -- in the busy waiting room on Sept. 20, 2008, shortly after 3 p.m.

Bell said her son's doctor had told them his legs could become infected and that was on her mind when she saw people coughing and the man she later learned was Sinclair smelling "like feces."

"I was scared for my son," she said.

"His doctor said he was very susceptible to infection. I was very concerned. I didn't want to stay in that room."

Bell said that's why, after sitting in the waiting room for more than an hour, she started speaking to the department's triage assistant and then a nurse.

Within minutes, Bell's son was reassessed and he was taken into the treatment area.

Admitting she became increasingly frustrated with the wait, Bell said, "I was not happy when I first walked in because of all the people there.

"One was coughing and there were people sleeping and all curled up... I know it wasn't life or death for my son, but I don't feel he should have been there that long."

As for Sinclair, Bell recalls "he looked very weak."

"It was very sad... he was in a wheelchair with a bowl below him... I saw his arm move twice."

The inquest has been told Sinclair -- who died of a treatable bladder infection caused by a blocked urinary catheter -- could have been dead up to seven hours before he was found.

The inquest has also been told the emergency room suffered from a shortage of nurses -- like other hospitals across the country -- and the department was busier than normal the Friday Sinclair went there.

Earlier, Lakhwinder Pannu said she and a family member had to change seats in the waiting room on Sept. 19, 2008, because of the strong smell of urine emanating from Sinclair.

"It was coming from his pants," Pannu said.

"His pants were wet -- quite wet. And the smell was coming from there."

Pannu said she could easily smell the odour when she passed by him.

Pannu said her family member was still in the emergency department the next day and so was Sinclair -- with one change.

"His pants were dried off."

Pannu said she would have told hospital staff about Sinclair but she was worried it could negatively affect her family member's treatment.

Pannu, who works as a teacher's aide and health-care aide, now says she regrets that decision.

"I have a question to myself: How come I didn't ask anyone to help him?" she said.

"My clients get home care because they can't do that stuff... they need us. I have to help her or help him. If I can't do it, I call the family."

The inquest continues.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2013 A11


Updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 10:06 AM CDT: Adds live blog

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