A Winnipeg family wants answers after a patient who disappeared during recent a hospital stay, was found dead around 12 hours after going into a main floor washroom at Health Sciences Centre.

Brian Childs, 61, lived with multiple sclerosis, used an electric scooter to get around and was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos.

Childs went to HSC’s emergency room Aug. 19 because he was in pain, feeling sick and was having trouble breathing.

According to family, Childs was scheduled to be discharged from hospital on the evening of Aug. 31 but was reported missing to family earlier that day, prompting a police search which ended when his body was discovered in a locked, accessible washroom.

The family is still waiting to get a final autopsy report but sisters Terrie Abrey and Sandra Klassen believe the hospital could’ve done more to prevent their younger brother’s death.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Abrey. “He wasn’t near death.

“It’s not right.”

Klassen said Childs, who had recently arranged to have an assisted death but hadn’t picked a date, wanted to die at his Charleswood home with family by his side and Eric Clapton’s song “Tears In Heaven” playing in the background.

“He didn’t choose to die locked in a washroom,” said Klassen. “He should not have been allowed to be left dead in the washroom for all those hours.”

“It’s unacceptable.”

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in an emailed statement it’s aware of the family’s concerns.

“This incident is being investigated as a critical incident. As a result, there is little we can share as, per provincial law, critical incident investigations are confidential and privileged. We have been, and will continue to be, in contact with Mr. Childs’ family, and we will continue to share with them what we learn,” the statement said.

The WRHA added that the HSC has a protocol for searching for missing patients.

“HSC has an established protocol to provide staff with direction on searching for patients believed to be missing or absent without official leave. Any question about whether or not the protocol was followed in this particular case would fall under the scope of the Critical Incident investigation,” they said.

Klassen and Abrey said they’ve had meetings with the WRHA’s critical incident team where they found out their younger brother went in to the washroom shortly before 10 a.m. on Aug. 31.

They were notified more than 12 hours later, at 10:22 p.m., he had been found dead.

“It’s been hell,” said Klassen. “Something terribly went wrong.”

Klassen said the first sign of trouble came in the form of a phone call from the hospital at 1:22 p.m. from a staff member asking if she had seen Childs because staff hadn’t seen him since earlier that morning.

“I was like, ‘how can you lose a patient,’” said Klassen.

Klassen said she went to hospital that afternoon around 2:45 p.m. and discovered that Childs’ clothes, shoes, keys and medication were still in his hospital room; the only thing gone was his scooter. When she asked if police had been informed, Klassen said she was told by staff that was up to the family to do.

Klassen called police.

Winnipeg police have confirmed they were involved in a search for Childs.

Klassen said officers determined his cellphone was within 500 metres of the hospital.

While police searched for Childs, Klassen said she and her husband were looking for her brother. She feared he may have left the hospital, been assaulted, robbed of his phone and left outside.

“We both checked emergency just in case by some chance he ended up back in there,” said Klassen. “To find out he was in the hospital the whole time…he wasn’t out on the streets lost… he was in their care, in their facility, locked in the bathroom, dead.

“How can they justify something like that.”

Childs, who worked in construction, had been living with MS since the early 90s, his sisters said. They described him as a man who loved fishing, socializing with friends and family and who loved motorcycles earlier in his life.

He had to stop working construction due to MS but that didn’t stop him from opening his own rod and tackle shop.

“He was always independent,” said Abrey. “Always wanted to keep working and keep doing what he could.”

The sisters said during visits with their brother in hospital he appeared to be disorientated. They said he had also recently had difficulty speaking, describing his voice as a “raspy whisper” which they don’t believe anyone would’ve heard if Childs had called for help in the washroom.

“They need to have some kind of way of being alerted when a patient hasn’t returned,” said Abrey.

The family said they learned after Childs’ death he had left HSC and ended up on the streets earlier on during his hospital stay. They said they found out through a text message in his phone that a woman at a nearby Husky gas station had given him directions back to the hospital because he appeared lost and confused.

Abrey and Klassen also learned from their brother’s medical records he had pneumonia, something they said neither he nor they knew while he was a patient at HSC.