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Nurse thought Sinclair drunk, ignored him

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An emergency room nurse broke down when she told an inquest she ignored a dying man in the waiting room because she believed he was drunk.

Wendy Krongold, who began working at Health Sciences Centre's emergency room in 2005 and continues to work there, cried in the witness box after admitting Thursday she walked past Brian Sinclair twice, while checking with other people in the waiting room -- including one who was sleeping -- to see if they were patients.

Krongold admitted she later told Winnipeg police during a criminal investigation into Sinclair's death "I think my initial thought, unfortunately, was he probably was an IPDA (Intoxicated Persons Detention Act)."

As well, hospital security cameras showed Krongold was back in the waiting room two more times during the next three hours to check other patients before walking through the room one last time at 7:15 a.m., in the direction of Sinclair, with a bag over her shoulder looking as if she had finished her shift.

But Krongold, who was working the 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. shift on Sept. 19 and 20, 2008, only remembers seeing Sinclair the first time she was in the waiting room.

"I just saw the back of him," she told provincial court Judge Tim Preston.

"He was sleeping... his head was to the side. He was facing the television."

Under questioning by Murray Trachtenberg, the lawyer representing Sinclair's family, Krongold agreed because she believed Sinclair was drunk, she didn't ask other staff about Sinclair or look for his chart.

The nurse also admitted that as a triage nurse -- especially on a shift where she knew the waiting room assessment nurse had been deployed elsewhere because of staff shortages -- part of her job was to reassess waiting patients to see if their conditions had changed.

Krongold agreed if Sinclair had been listed as IPDA, she was still responsible for checking on him until police took him away for detention.

Sinclair, 45, died after waiting 34 hours at the ER without getting help.

The inquest into Sinclair's death has heard Sinclair, a double amputee who had been in the ER many times, arrived when the department was short-staffed, busier than normal and still working out kinks in a facility that had been opened the previous year.

Krongold first saw Sinclair when he had been sitting in the waiting room for about 12 hours. The inquest has heard Sinclair may have died seven hours before he was found dead.

When questioned by lawyer Garth Smorang, who represents the Manitoba Nurses Union, Krongold agreed while the video doesn't show her examining Sinclair, it also doesn't show her checking on every patient in the waiting room, including another man sleeping in a wheelchair.

Meanwhile, the inquest judge agreed to provide free transcripts -- but not government-funded lawyers -- for aboriginal organizations that believe they have been marginalized at the inquest.

Preston ruled on the matter after hearing from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Ka Ni Kanichihk.

They say they aren't on an equal footing with groups that have standing at the inquest that can afford lawyers, including the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Preston said if he ordered the government to fund lawyers for the two organizations, it might lead to the government having to fund lawyers for all groups at future inquests.

But KNK executive director Leslie Spillett said she would attempt to get funding through Legal Aid Manitoba's public interest centre.

"We never take no for an answer," Spillett said outside court, noting while Legal Aid had earlier turned down funding for the entire inquest, she is hoping it will provide funding for the second half, which will focus on changes in all of the city's emergency rooms since Sinclair's death.

But Preston did agree to the request for free transcripts.

"In a protracted proceeding like this, this court needs a transcript," he said.

Preston said once the transcripts are produced, he will request electronic versions be given to everyone who has been granted standing.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2013 A5

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