The inquest continued Wednesday into the emergency-room death of Brian Sinclair, a day after his family and an aboriginal legal group pulled out of the proceedings.

The absence of Sinclair's family, their lawyers, and Aboriginal Legal Services was noticeable in the Winnipeg courtroom where Judge Timothy Preston has been presiding over the inquest.

The parties announced on Tuesday that they will not take part in the inquest's second phase, citing frustration with Preston's decision to focus the hearings on emergency room patient flow and wait times. One witness is scheduled to discuss aboriginal health.

Robert Sinclair

Robert Sinclair, cousin of Brian Sinclair and the family spokesman, spoke to reporters outside the Winnipeg courthouse on Tuesday. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

Sinclair's family and the aboriginal group argue that the inquest should examine issues aboriginal people face in the health-care system, including systemic racism and discrimination.

The 45-year-old double-amputee went to the emergency room at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre on the afternoon of Sept. 19, 2008. He was sent there by a community clinic because he had not urinated in 24 hours.

It wasn't until 34 hours after Sinclair arrived at the hospital that he was found dead in his wheelchair after midnight on Sept. 21. He had not been triaged and he did not receive any care during his time there.

His death was later attributed to a treatable bladder infection caused by a blocked catheter.

The second phase is examining ways to prevent similar deaths from happening in the future.

WRHA official testifies

Without Sinclair's family and Aboriginal Legal Services present, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) and the Manitoba Nurses’ Union are the only parties participating in the hearings, and no one representing his family is cross-examining them.

On Wednesday, the inquest heard from Dr. Alecs Chochinov, medical director of the WRHA's emergency medicine program, who said ER overcrowding remains a problem today.

Chochinov showed a presentation on the challenges and solutions to improving patient flow in the emergency department, saying WRHA officials need to show strong leadership to make it happen.

He testified that moving patients in and out of the emergency department efficiently is a priority for the WRHA.

However, to ensure no patient stays in the ER for longer than 24 hours, the health authority needs more hospital doctors and beds, he added.

"Really there's no systematic approach to this problem that will mandate that every patient be moved upstairs within the 24-hour benchmark," Chochinov said.

The inquest will continue until the end of February, and then will take a break before resuming in June.