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Leak on ER death stirs pot

Opposition outraged Sinclair case info kept quiet

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Opposition MLAs said Thursday a leaked confidential report on the Health Sciences Centre's handling of patient Brian Sinclair five years ago raises troubling new questions about the case.

"I was shocked by this report. I thought I had heard everything, but clearly the situation in the (HSC's) emergency room in 2008 was very, very bad, a war zone," said Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard.

A critical-incident review committee report on why Sinclair, a double amputee who had come to the ER for a blocked catheter and urinary-tract infection, languished for 34 hours without receiving treatment was leaked this week.

'I was shocked by this report. I thought I had heard everything, but clearly the situation in the (HSC's) emergency room in 2008 was very, very bad, a war zone' -- Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard

By law, recommended health-system improvements arising from such reviews are, and in this case were made public, but other details in such reports are kept private to encourage health workers to come forward and admit errors.

According to the leaked document, four members of the public tried to alert ER staff to Sinclair's condition -- he would die without receiving treatment -- and were largely ignored. Further, the report concluded such information from the public is not seen by triage workers as particularly useful.

Gerrard said the leaked information shows the government "has been very much less than transparent" about what it has known since November 2008, when the report was completed. "They may not have needed to release the whole report, but they could have at least highlighted the critical areas that needed to be addressed," he said.

Progressive Conservative health critic Cameron Friesen said he is troubled by the fact individuals tried to alert hospital staff about Sinclair's condition and their concerns were ignored.

"I think beyond that, the essential question that Manitobans are left with is: Why is this information coming out now, and why is it that the minister did not disclose this information to Manitobans?" Friesen said.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald was not in the legislature Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Naline Rampersad, a spokeswoman for Oswald, said the minister was briefed about the report when it came out but did not see a copy of it.

"Minister Oswald was most concerned about what was recommended by the (critical-incident) investigation to prevent this type of tragic incident from happening again to someone else and ensuring those recommendations were acted on, which they have been," Rampersad said in an email.

Acting health minister Dave Chomiak responded to questions about the leaked document in the legislature and took reporters' questions afterwards.

He defended the confidentiality of critical-incident reviews as necessary for improving health care and said it was "unfortunate" the leak had occurred in the midst of a provincial inquest aiming to get to the bottom of the Sinclair tragedy.

Several reforms have been made to ER protocols since Sinclair's death, and the inquest will produce more recommendations for improvement, Chomiak said. "The point of the inquest is to improve the system, and let's see what the judge (provincial court Judge Tim Preston) says about doing that and let's get on with it."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2013 A3

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Updated on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 6:27 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds video

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