BC’s Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau says BC needs to listen to the concerns of front-line health-care workers from North Vancouver Island and consider hiring physician assistants.
At a press conference Friday accompanied by local Dr. Alex Nataros, Furstenau said BC Health Minister Adrian Dix must listen to healthcare workers.
“I’m asking health minister Adrian Dix to acknowledge and recognize the systemic workplace issues that are in our healthcare system,” she said Friday.
“They are real and the situation cannot tolerate any more downplaying.”
Dr. Nataros, a doctor based in Port Hardy, has been publicly pushing for physician assistants for the local hospital after months of intermittent closures at the ER department.
“I am advocating for physician assistants because I only have one set of hands,” he said.
“Physician assistants are proven, evidence-based, culturally safe, and cost-effective physician extenders. This model works, and I need help in Port Hardy.”
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Dr. Nataros was recently suspended by Island Health from working in the emergency department. Nataros claims he was suspended as “retaliation” for his public comments, which include a resignation call for Island Health’s vice president — something the local health body denies.
“I am here to advocate for my patients because the stakes are too high in our health-care crisis,” Dr. Nataros said.
“Our communities — Port Hardy, Port McNeill, and Alert Bay — have continued to see emergency room closures and unstable staffing owing to lack of support and at times, mismanagement by Island Health.
“Patients are suffering and minister Dix doesn’t have the time of day for me, and yet his Ministry of Health, their leadership with Island Health below them, are willing to suspend my emergency privileges.”
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Island Health’s vice president of medicine, Dr. Ben Williams, refutes that notion entirely.
“It is unfortunate that he is characterizing the situation in this manner. More importantly, his comments are categorically untrue,” Dr. Williams said in a press release.
“On Monday, Jan. 30th, an Island Health senior medical leader, who has responsibility for quality and safety, was alerted to a patient complaint regarding care delivered by Dr. Nataros in the Port Hardy Emergency Department.
“The complaint was very serious and gave rise to concerns about Dr. Nataros’ ability to safely practice in the Emergency Department. This concern for patient safety was immediately brought to my attention.”
“In this case, as chief medical officer, I determined there is a serious concern for patient safety and have restricted Dr. Nataros from working in Island Health emergency departments while a fulsome investigation takes place into all of the concerns raised.”
The full response from Dr. Williams can be read online.
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Global News’ asked Health Minister Adrian Dix for comment regarding the situation.
“Dr. Nataros has been an advocate in the public debate,” Dix said.
“But, what is happening between Island Health and Dr. Nataros is a private matter that complaints have been raised and (Island Health) is investigating those complaints. Dr. Williams is doing his job investigating the complaints.”
Dix pointed to a number of measures the province has taken in the area as work being done to address health-care service issues.
In late January, Dix announced $30 million in funding to address many issues plaguing the area’s health-care system.
Dr. Nataros said he no longer feels safe working in the Island Health Authority and will start a non-profit community health center in Port Hardy’s Thunderbird Mall, backed by the Rotary Club.
BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon has also backed Dr. Nataros’ calls for physician assistants.
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