A public inquest into the death of a patient in a hospital waiting room won't likely happen until the fall, according to a Winnipeg lawyer experienced in the process.
Hymie Weinstein said it's normal in Manitoba for an inquest to take some time to be organized. There are numerous things that must first be arranged, including choosing a judge, appointing lawyers, notifying and interviewing any individuals or groups that want to have standing.
'The public has to be assured that all relevant evidence was presented, all relevant witnesses were called, and no stone was left unturned.' —Hymie Weinstein, lawyer
Weinstein, who has been involved in a number of public inquests and inquiries, said the Brian Sinclair inquest is an especially important case for Manitoba and it must be done right.
"Because of the public outcry, at the end of the day the public has to be assured that all relevant evidence was presented, all relevant witnesses were called, and no stone was left unturned as far as presenting all of the facts," Weinstein told CBC News.
Sinclair, a 45-year-old double amputee with a speech problem, was found dead in his wheelchair after spending 34 hours in the emergency department waiting room of the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre last September.
An autopsy later determined he died as a result of a blood infection brought on by complications of a bladder infection caused by a blocked catheter.
His death could have been prevented if the blood infection had been treated, Manitoba's chief medical examiner, Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, said within days of Sinclair's death. Last week Balachandra announced there would be an inquest into the death.
Inquests difficult to organize
Manitoba's former chief medical examiner, Peter Markesteyne, agreed that inquests are difficult to organize, but said it is possible to expedite things when public interest is high, as in the Sinclair case.
"It is a difficult problem because all these deaths, or the deaths that occur in health facilities, of course do have an impact on people, and it's always important to get these matters out of the way as soon as possible," he said.
Balachandra has asked the province's chief judge, Ray Wyant, to select a judge to preside over the inquest. A spokesperson in Wyant's office told CBC that someone could be named as early as next week.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's board of directors has refused to release an administrative review into Sinclair's death. Board chairman Dr. John Wade has said the report will come out during the inquest.
Manitobans have a "right to know": privacy lawyer
But a privacy lawyer in Nova Scotia doesn't buy the WRHA's reasoning.
Health officials have said they don't want to compromise the inquest, but David Fraser said Manitobans, particularly Sinclair's family, have a right to know what the review found.
"Citizens have, or should have, a right to know what their public institutions are doing," he said after looking over the WRHA's legal opinion.
"One can argue strongly that the public interest in making sure that all the information is made available, that these public bodies can be accountable, should overrule in this case."
Hugh McFadyen, Manitoba's Opposition leader, has called for the review to be made public. He said health officials are using the issue of Sinclair's privacy to play it both ways.
"The whole world knows a lot of intimate detail about Brian Sinclair's health status [because] the government came out with misleading stories that contained personal health information," he said. "Now, all of a sudden, they've got an opinion that says, 'Oh, it's illegal now to talk about Brian Sinclair's health."