Flanked by his dog Pearl, healthcare advocates, and politicians in a conference room in downtown Victoria Friday morning, Port Hardy doctor Alex Nataros says a recent suspension of his emergency room privileges has been devastating.
“My care was appropriate and there were no adverse outcomes, again I repeat my care was appropriate and there were no adverse outcomes,” he told the room of reporters.
The statement comes after Island Health said a serious patient complaint led to questions about Nataros’s competency to practice emergency medicine not, as Nataros and some colleagues have argued, as a result of his outspoken criticism of Island Health’s top brass in recent days, including calls for its chief medical officer to resign.
Dr. Ben Williams spoke to CHEK News Thursday saying he welcomes feedback from employees but insisted that Nataros’ suspension followed a complaint from a patient as well as members of the local care team.
“I received a written letter of concern from other members of the care team at Port Hardy hospital that also indicated concerns about Dr. Nataros’s ability to safely care for patients,” he said. “Physicians have every right to speak to the media regarding their concerns regarding the healthcare system and to advocate for a better system of care for our patients, I think that’s totally okay, I welcome the feedback.”
But B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau, who stood beside Nataros at the press conference, argued there is a systemic problem in Island Health leadership that has led not just to Nataros’s complaints, but has the majority of employees feeling unappreciated and unheard.
“I’m asking Health Minister Adrian Dix to acknowledge and recognize the systemic workplace issues that are in our healthcare system, they are real and the situation cannot tolerate any more downplaying,” she said.
Furstenau says healthcare employees must be able to bring forward solutions, provide feedback, and raise concerns without fear of reprimand or punishment.
Alex Nataros says the issues are pushing him to look at providing care in new ways, outside of Island Health.
“Owing to this mistreatment and the recent very public misrepresentation by Island Health’s chief medical officer, I no longer feel safe working in Island Health facilities,” he said.
While Nataros says he will continue to work at the Port Hardy hospital and long-term care facility, he’s planning a new, non-profit community health centre along with two other doctors in Thunderbird Mall. He insists he’s not the only one that’s fed up with the health authority’s direction.
“You would be blown away by how many nurses and physicians have reached out to me in the past week with their own stories.”
Nataros is expected to have a hearing about his emergency room restrictions next week.