The sister of a man who died after waiting 34 hours for emergency care at Health Sciences Centre says she will never forgive staff there.
Esther Grant, Brian Sinclair's older sister, told an inquest hearing on Tuesday she hung up on a hospital official who telephoned her at her British Columbia home to apologize for the 45-year-old's death on Sept. 21, 2008.
"I'll never accept their apology," Grant said shortly after she became the first of an expected 70 witnesses to testify in the coming months.
"I'll never forgive what they did to him... I just don't want it to happen to anyone else."
Earlier, Grant told provincial court Judge Tim Preston her brother's death "to this day really bothers me still."
"I am distressed, angry, about what was done to him. He was suffering for 34 hours. It really hurts me so bad."
'I'll never forgive what they did to him... I just don't want it to happen to anyone else'
Sinclair, a double amputee, went to HSC with a blocked urinary catheter on Sept 19. Hours later, after being spoken to by at least two people in the emergency department, he was found dead in his wheelchair in the emergency waiting room.
The cause of death was found to be a treatable bladder infection.
The inquest, which has dates scheduled through to February, was called by the chief medical examiner in February 2009, but was delayed while awaiting the results of a Winnipeg police investigation.
Last year, police said no criminal charges would be laid against any health-care worker but released no details because they said the information will come out during the inquest.
Grant said she believes racism played a role in the death of her brother. "They should treat people nice and not just turn away from them."
Grant, who said several times she was close to her "baby brother" and said she could tell his spirit was in the courtroom, said "he was a very kind person." She said he grew up with eight siblings near Sagkeeng First Nation because their mother didn't have treaty status at the time.
"A lot of people liked him a lot. He was soft-spoken. He never harmed anyone."
Grant said once, when her brother was in his early 20s, he broke open a door to a burning house to save people inside.
"He risked his life. He was my hero... he was proud of himself: 'I could have died, but I didn't care because I wanted to save them. I happened to be there. I was an angel.' "
Chaplain Ken McGhie, who got to know Sinclair when he came with his two brothers to the Lighthouse Mission on Main Street, said he told health officials the wristbands now put on patients to keep track of them when they enter the emergency department should be named in Sinclair's honour.
"They should be called the Brian band," McGhie said.
"This man lost his life because of negligence. That should be one thing they should do."
Later, Manitoba's chief medical examiner, Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, sparred with lawyer Bill Olson, who represents the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
Olson asked Balachandra why in the days after Sinclair's death he divulged to the media some details of who the man had contact with in the emergency room even though it appeared under the province's Fatalities Inquiries Act he shouldn't have.
"We did not disclose any names," Balachandra said.
And when asked about other medical issues Sinclair had, Balachandra instead responded "we know this person came to hospital, was seen speaking to a hospital employee as soon as he arrived and didn't go outside of the emergency department. He was talked to by security. Thirty-six hours later he died.
"For me, that is not right. I'm not blaming anyone, but something went wrong somewhere and it has to be made right."
Earlier, inquest counsel David Frayer told Preston witnesses will include doctors, nurses, home-care workers and members of the public who were with Sinclair in his final hours. Frayer said the judge can't find blame but can hear what happened and make recommendations to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.
During his opening statements, Olson, on behalf of the WRHA, apologized to the Sinclair family for his death.
Olson said no one individual was at fault but "some made errors in judgment or missed opportunities."
Lawyer Garth Smorang, who represents the Manitoba Nurses Union and 16 nurses who will testify (including 15 from HSC), said "nurses have been professionally and personally devastated" by Sinclair's death.