Family of Winnipeg man who died after waiting 34 hours in ER files lawsuit

The family of a man who died after spending 34 hours waiting for treatment in a Winnipeg emergency room has filed a civil lawsuit.

BY THE CANADIAN PRESS

WINNIPEG — The family of a man who died after spending 34 hours waiting for treatment in a Winnipeg emergency room has filed a civil lawsuit.

The suit, filed by Brian Sinclair’s sister Esther Grant Joyce, names the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, its vice-president Brock Wright, the Government of Manitoba and 13 individuals, all but one medical staff working when Sinclair died.

“We can’t control the inquest, we can’t control the police, but we can control the lawsuit,” lawyer Vilko Zbogar said Friday.

The suit asks the court to award damages for what it contends was “cruel and discriminatory” treatment Sinclair received in the hours leading up to his death on Sept. 21, 2008.

Sinclair, 45, an aboriginal man who used a wheelchair, had gone to the emergency room to get treatment for a bladder infection, a condition that required a simple catheter change and antibiotics.

His death made national headlines and raised concerns about the quality of ER care and treatment of aboriginal people by the health-care system.

“For 34 hours, hospital staff callously, recklessly or negligently ignored Brian Sinclair, even as he sat in the hospital waiting room in distress, vomiting, and dying,” alleges the 34-page statement of claim.

“They left him to suffer agony, and gave him no care, treatment, assessment, attention or necessaries of life. As a result, he died.”

A statement of defence has not been filed as defendants were only served Friday. Statements of claim contain allegations not yet proven in court.

Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, Manitoba’s chief medical examiner, has said Sinclair’s death could have been prevented if the blood infection had been treated.

He announced in February 2009 that an inquest would be held, but no dates for it to start have been set.

The claim also alleges the health authority tried to cover up the story of Sinclair’s death by falsely asserting to the media that Sinclair “never approached the triage desk and never made medical staff aware of his need for assistance.”

“They implied that it was Brian Sinclair’s own fault for being left to die for 34 hours in the emergency room of a major Canadian hospital.”

The Sinclair family and its lawyers are also currently involved in a fight over legal fees.

The family claims that the health authority is in breach of its statutory obligation to assist them and have asked the courts to order the health authority to disclose how much public money it is spending on its own legal team.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan has capped the amount Sinclair’s family will get for legal fees before and during the upcoming inquest at $110,000.

The family’s lawyers have said they without knowing what the health authority is paying its lawyers it appears the family will not get meaningful participation at the inquest.

The family also demanded a full public inquiry into the matter, but the province has rejected that request.

They also asked for a police criminal investigation into Sinclair’s death, but Zbogar said police haven’t started an investigation.

A police spokesman said the matter is still before the police service.

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