Kevin Rollason | Hillman Foundation

2015 Honourable Mention

Kevin Rollason
Winnipeg Free Press

On a September weekend in 2008, Brian Sinclair, an aboriginal man, needed basic health care.  A double amputee, he needed his urinary catheter changed, and he waited in his wheelchair in the ER of the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre for 34 hours while staff ignored him. 

Mr. Sinclair died in the waiting room. In fact, he may have been dead up to seven hours before staff noticed – doctors attempted to resuscitate him before discovering rigor mortis was already setting in.

It took five long years before a provincial inquest began to look into his death and answer the questions: how did this happen and why?

Reporter Kevin Rollason covered the hearings from beginning to end. His daily reports were followed by health care professionals who were able to learn of the flaws in their system and change them even before the hearing was concluded and the report finished. Rollason supplemented his coverage with in-depth stories on Canada’s lack of universal standards of care for emergency rooms and some remarkable investigative work that proved that nearly 200 patients were cared for as Mr. Sinclair sat dying in the ER, a story no other reporter had.

Rollason’s work was honoured by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and helped the public understand the issues of bed shortages, clogged emergency rooms and hospital wards, problems with the design and layout of the ER waiting room, what role racism played in Mr. Sinclair’s death and what the hospital and the regional health authority have done to ensure a death like his never happens again.  

Kevin Rollason was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Manitoba after graduating from the University of Western Ontario with a Master of Arts in journalism. He had already earned an undergraduate degree in communication studies at the University of Windsor. 

While in Windsor, Kevin was elected editor of the student newspaper, The Lance, and somehow found time to found and publish a graduate school newspaper, The Third Degree, while studying at Western. He was also elected human rights co-ordinator for the Ontario chapter of Canadian University Press.

His first job as a reporter was with the Winnipeg Sun, and he soon became its city hall reporter and columnist. Since joining the Winnipeg Free Press in 1988, he has helmed the paper’s law courts and city hall bureaus and in recent years has specialized in stories involving health care, aviation and philanthropy.

Kevin has been a finalist at the National Newspaper Awards, was named health reporter of the year by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and been honoured by the Canadian Medical Association, Huntington Society of Canada, the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, Thompson Newspapers and Volunteer Manitoba.

Kevin has also been lauded by the Canadian Newspaper Association’s annual Great Ideas category for creating a unique annual end-of-the-year obituary feature.

In his private life, Kevin, as the parent of a special-needs child with multiple special needs, has not only advocated for her, but also helped others living with special needs by winning a constitutional challenge against the federal government after being denied a portion of his parental leave benefits under employment insurance due to his daughter’s disabilities.