WINNIPEG Winnipeg s health authority has admitted it failed a homeless aboriginal man in a wheelchair who died during a 34-hour wait in a hospital emergency room, but says race or his social status didn t play a role in the lack of treatment.
William Olsen, lawyer for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, told the inquest into the death of Brian Sinclair that no single person was responsible for what happened to the double-amputee.
But he said there is no doubt errors were made.
A perfect storm occurred, Olsen told Judge Tim Preston Tuesday in his opening statement. The WRHA failed him at all levels of the organization.
Sinclair went to the emergency room of Winnipeg s Health Sciences Centre Sept.
19, 2008, with a bladder infection and spoke with a nurse. The homeless aboriginal man stayed in the emergency room waiting room until a fellow patient notified a security guard that he was dead.
Manitoba s medical examiner found Sinclair had a blocked catheter and that the problem could have been fixed with a simple procedure.
Preston will hold hearings through August then again in October to determine how Sinclair ended up dying.
Sinclair was soft-spoken and hard to understand, Olsen said. He was also cognitively impaired and fiercely independent, he added.
That cannot be an excuse for failing to ensure he was properly reviewed by the system as a person requiring care, Olsen said.
The hospital was responsible for Sinclair the minute he walked through the door of the emergency room, he said.
We failed in that respect, Olsen said.
While some argue Sinclair s race and disability led to him being ignored for 34 hours, Olsen said that wasn t the case.
These events could have happened to anyone, he said.
But Murray Trachtenberg, lawyer for the Sinclair family, said there is little doubt Sinclair s identity and marginalization led to stereotyping and false assumptions about his need for care.
Instead of receiving care, Trachtenberg said he sat there helpless, vomiting, his life slowly fading away.
Sinclair was told to wait to see a triage nurse and that s exactly what he did, he said.
He waited and waited, growing sicker and weaker by the minute, Trachtenberg said. There were numerous opportunities for medical staff to ensure he received the help he needed.
Sinclair was a frequent visitor to the emergency room and did struggle with substance abuse, Trachtenberg said.
It was not his demons that killed him, he said.
It was the angels the professionals we all turn to in times of urgent medical need that egregiously and fatally let him down.
The first witnesses to take the stand Tuesday told the inquest that Sinclair was not the kind of guy who would complain or advocate for himself.
Esther Grant, Sinclair s sister, said her younger brother was a quiet guy who was always looking out for others the type who would help an elderly woman with her shopping bags. Before losing his legs, he once broke into a burning house to rescue people trapped inside, she said.
That s just the kind of guy he was, she said. He was a special kind of guy.
One of nine children, he got good grades in school but fell in with a bad crowd when the family moved from Berens River, Man., to Winnipeg, she said.
He started sniffing substances and was taken into care when his parents split up. He and his brothers were kicked out of a rooming house where they were living and ended up on the street, she said.
That s where he lost both his legs to frostbite and the two siblings lost touch. Grant said she found out her brother had died the day of his funeral.
I just dropped to the floor.
It was like someone was stabbing me in the heart, she said. I m overwhelmed, stressed, angry. He was there suffering for 34 hours with no medical attention.
Ken McGhie, a chaplain at Lighthouse Mission, remembered Sinclair as the epitome of patience.
He would never push in line, McGhie said.
He never complained.
An employee of Bulletproof Securities at the Gogebic Taconite test drilling site in northern Wisconsin. A dispute over the use of masked, camouflage-clad guards armed with assault rifles at a controversial mining site in northern Wisconsin was temporarily defused Wednesday when the mining company announced it was pulling the guards because they are not licensed to work in the state. But Bob Seitz, a spokesman for Gogebic Taconite, said that the Bulletproof Securities personnel would return when the Arizona-based company was properly licensed. (We have) suspended use of this company s services at our site until the necessary approvals have been granted, he said.
We have been utilizing multiple security arrangements and will rely on those other assets until this vendor is licensed. The mining company, which has leased thousands of acres of publicly accessible forestland in Iron County for a potential open-pit iron mine, hired the security firm to patrol its test drilling site last week, after a June 11 incident in which environmental protesters allegedly raided the site and did $2,000-worth of damage to a drill rig and a camera. One activist currently faces a felony charge of robbery and three misdemeanor counts.
We were attacked on our first day of drilling, said Seitz. Twelve to 15 masked people came onto the site and barricaded the road. Seitz says the purpose of the security team was to prevent further attacks and keep company employees safe.
On Monday, two local officials sent a letter to Gogebic demanding that the company remove the guards. Sen. Bob Jauch, who coauthored the letter with Rep.
Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, told NBC News he found the presence of the camo-clad guards offensive and said they were meant to intimidate. They truly look like mercenaries, said Jauch. They look like they re about to stage a coup in Latin America.
Before the withdrawal of the Bulletproof guards, Jauch also questioned why Gogebic had brought in security from out of state instead hiring a local company, and whether the company even had the right to conduct business in Wisconsin. Jauch s office forwarded NBC News a list provided by an official at the state s Department of Safety and Professional Services of the licensed private security and private detective firms in Wisconsin. Bulletproof Securities was not among them.
When NBC News contacted Seitz Tuesday to ask if Bulletproof Securities was licensed to operate in the state, he said he believed that they were. But when NBC News contacted Bulletproof President Tom Parrella Wednesday morning, he said he did not know if his company was licensed in Wisconsin because he did not handle compliance for the company. On Wednesday afternoon, a spokeswoman for DSPS told NBC News that Bulletproof had contacted the agency about licensing.
Bulletproof Securities has contacted the Department and has indicated its intention to submit a license application, she said. Typically, the processing time for a Private Detective/Security Guard Agency license is two to three days provided all requirements are made. Shortly afterwards, Seitz announced that Gogebic would remove the guards from the site temporarily.
Sen. Jauch blasted Gogebic, also known as GTAC, in a statement that said it had been using the services of Bulletproof illegally. These actions demonstrate that GTAC has no respect for the public and no regard for the law, said the statement.
Had GTAC not been in such a hurry to hire a militia that s armed more for war than defense of property, they could have hired a legally licensed Wisconsin firm. Parrella said that Bulletproof s decision to come to Wisconsin had been made very quickly. This was a very last-minute operation.
The team left within a few hours of getting the call, literally packing up the trucks and going. However, he said, the governor s office, the Department of Natural Resources and the sheriffs of Iron and Ashland counties were informed that the guards were coming. The state was notified that a private military contractor from Arizona was coming in, said Parrella.
The state was notified at the highest level. Once the Bulletproof team arrived in Wisconsin, he said, it met with the game wardens of Iron and Ashland counties and the sheriff of Iron County. Neither sheriff immediately responded to requests for comment.
State environmentalists have strongly opposed the mine, saying it threatens the water in a thinly populated and thickly forested slice of the state near Lake Superior. This mine is being proposed for one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the state, said Shahla Werner, director of the Wisconsin chapter of the Sierra Club. It would be very difficult to site a project in that area without causing devastating damage.
We all live downstream from it. Protesters have been camped nearby for months, and because of the terms of the mine property s lease, they have regular contact with Gogebic employees and security personnel. Under the lease, members of the public still have the right access to the land for hiking, fishing and hunting.
Both hikers and activists can walk straight up to the drill site and to the armed guards. Under Wisconsin law, the guards may not use violence to protect property, but they may defend themselves if they are under physical attack. Parrella defended the way his guards were armed and dressed.
The camouflage uniforms are standard protocol when going into a remote area not really knowing what to expect. . . . The guys can blend into the environment and be able to defend themselves. The only reason some guards have worn masks, according to Parrella, is concern for anonymity should their pictures turn up online: These guys have families.
According to Parrella, activists continue to sneak onto the site and that none of the people his employees had encountered on the property was just out for a walk in the woods. Every one of them has been an activist, he said. He also noted there had been no incidents of vandalism and no physical confrontations since his company arrived in Iron County.
Parrella said that in the past few days some of his guards have begun keeping their carbines in their vehicles because they realized they wouldn t be necessary. Sen. Jauch, who characterized the June 11 incident as the work of a group of overzealous misfits, said the quiet is due in part to a strong effort by anti-mine protesters who would prefer to have peaceful opposition.
Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske confirmed that there had been no additional confrontations on the Gogebic land, and said most protesters seemed to be peaceful. Lipske said, however, that he still hopes to file additional charges in connection with the vandalism. We would love to identify other suspects, said Lipske.
But they were all masked.
More from NBC News Investigations:
First published July 11 2013, 1:17 AM
“Stock Photo: Police With A Weapon, A Special Unit” on Shutterstock: http://tinyurl.com/lqt6vuy Heavily-armed, masked paramilitary forces descended upon the Gogebic Taconite mining site in Wisconsin1 over the weekend, much to the chagrin of local residents and elected officials.
There is no evidence to justify their presence.
Jaunch sent a letter to Gogebic President Bill Williams on Monday demanding the company remove the guards, which he called common in third world countries, but stressed that they don t belong in Northern Wisconsin.
The company brought in the paramilitary forces after being confronted by a group of about 15 protesters in June3. At least one of the demonstrators, a young woman, was hit with misdemeanor charges for trying to take a camera away from one of the company s geologists. Gogebic claims they ve since caught several people illegally camping on their property and did not want to take any chances.
They certainly look the part, too: photos of Bulletproof guards at the Gegebic site published by the Wisconsin progressive blog Blue Cheddar5 show men who look very much like special forces soldiers, complete with assault rifles and black masks.
Do they have the authority to use those weapons? If so, on who? Jauch asked the Journal.
I don t know if there s a hunting season right now except maybe for rabbit, but you shoot a rabbit with that, all you ll end up with is fur. What would you use those weapons for except to hurt somebody?
The mining site they re protecting in the Penokee Mountains is highly controversial and critics say in violation of a treaty with Native Americans.
Video shot by Wisconsin-based website Indian Country TV6 over the weekend featured at least one of the paramilitaries wearing full camoflage and a military-style net over his face an image that would have been completed by an assault rifle, if he hadn t left it sitting on the passenger s seat of his vehicle, right next to a cameraman.
What happened to your fancy guns? the cameraman asked.
Look at that. Very close by. Who are you going to shoot?
It s a security protocol, the guard replied, refusing to provide his name or his employer s name.
You re being caught up in a national phenomenon, the cameraman informed the guard.
We ve got reporters calling from all over the country wondering about the occupation of Penokee Mountains Heritage Park by people who ve got automatic weapons.
And the question is, Why?
A spokesperson for Gogebic told The Cap Times on Tuesday7 that they re considering restricting their drilling sites from public access, which wouldn t be an option until December when the state begins accepting applications.
This video is from Indian Country TV, published July 7, 2013.
- ^ the Gogebic Taconite mining site in Wisconsin (dnr.wi.gov)
- ^ told The Wisconsin State Journal on Monday (host.madison.com)
- ^ being confronted by a group of about 15 protesters in June (www.startribune.com)
- ^ Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities (www.bulletproofsecurities.com)
- ^ published by the Wisconsin progressive blog Blue Cheddar (www.bluecheddar.net)
- ^ Indian Country TV (www.indiancountrynews.com)
- ^ told The Cap Times on Tuesday (host.madison.com)
- ^ Shutterstock (tinyurl.com)
- ^ Talking Points Memo (editors.talkingpointsmemo.com)