Two North Island doctors call for resignation of Island Health official

Two North Island doctors call for resignation of Island Health official

The countdown is on until Dr. Alex Nataros is the only remaining emergency room doctor serving the community of Port Hardy.

But Nataros is one of two North Island doctors that says those calls for help aren’t being heard by Island Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ben Williams, and they’re now calling for his resignation.

“His answer to the health care crisis was to offer to come for a few days to locum as a physician,” said Nataros.

“To me, that’s an absence of leadership, that’s an abdication of responsibility, it’s a complete dereliction of his basic duties as chief medical officer. I believe Dr. Ben Williams needs to resign.”

Port McNeill doctor Prean Armogam echoes similar concerns.

“The continued inertia and inaction from health authority officials must stop,” Armogam said in a statement to CHEK News.

“We have an opportunity for success but not with the current local and senior health authority representatives.”

B.C.’s health minister recently promised $30 million to tackle the healthcare crisis on the North Island, but the physicians say in a recent meeting with Island Health officials, there was no indication of how it might be spent and when help was coming.

“Frankly, it was shockingly disappointing. There was nothing announced that would help us as physicians today, tomorrow or next week,” said Nataros.

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau pointed out what she calls a serious culture issue at Island Health during Question Period on Tuesday.

“Doctors speaking out about their serious concerns about patient safety are threatened, punished and silenced. Island Health isn’t just punishing doctors though, Honourable Speaker, they’re punishing entire communities,” she alleged.

Health Minister Adrian Dix responded by saying he still has confidence in Island Health.

“I reject the idea that when people raise concerns they’re threatened, they are not Honourable Speaker,” said Dix.

A lack of communication was a glaring issue in a recent employee survey leaked to CHEK News last month. Less than half of the 11,000 respondents felt Island Health cared about the well-being of its employees, and even fewer agreed that communication between senior leaders and employees was open and honest.

At the time, Island Health’s CEO took full responsibility.

“I’m taking this very seriously, I feel very accountable,” said Kathy MacNeil.

In a statement Tuesday, MacNeil said she has complete and continued confidence in Dr. Williams’ leadership and that Island Health’s focus is stabilizing the healthcare system on the North Island with the help of partners, including local physicians.

As the doctors continue their plea for help, their community is standing by them and planning a healthcare rally in Port McNeill on March 11.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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