Two doctors have issued separate calls asking for Island Health’s chief medical officer to resign in the wake of continued issues plaguing the delivery of health care on northern Vancouver Island
Port Hardy’s Dr. Alex Nataros posted on his official Twitter account that due to “physician harrassment and ongoing dereliction of duty to meet basic job responsibility to provide medical leadership” he is calling for “the resignation of Dr. Ben Williams.”
Meanwhile, Port McNeill physician Dr. Prean Armogam, who has been living and working in the North Island for 17 years, echoed that sentiment.
“The brokeness [of the North Island health-care system] needs to stop,” he added. “This has been going on for a long time, and there is no confidence in the competence of the senior executive to actually administer change on a successful level. They haven’t been helpful, they haven’t been listening, and patients have been suffering.”
Health care facilities in Port Hardy, Port McNeill, and nearby Alert Bay have been struggling with repeated staffing shortages, leading to multiple temporary closures and service disruptions.
Armogam said Island Health’s response has ultimately been a “hot potato approach – it’s poorly thought out, it’s not planned, and it puts patients at risk.”
He said he’s been dealing with Island Health’s poor treatment of physicians since 2020, when he went public with concerns, and was subsequently forced into stepping down from his position as medical director for the Regional District of Mount Waddington.
“It was because I stood up for myself about issues regarding privilege and race, and I was labelled as a troublemaker … The moment you point out deficiencies you get labelled as disruptive or not following the rules, but at the same time, there’s been a complete lack of accountability from [Island Health].
“In more recent times, [Island Health] has not been present, they’re not listening, and with all the hospital closures and diversions, they’ve been lacking in support for Port Hardy doctors.”
Nataros said strained relationships are chasing away current staff and getting in the way of recruiting. He pointed to how he waited for weeks to hear from Williams about a promised action plan to deal with physician concerns. Instead, when Williams finally contacted him, it was with an unexpected cold call about how Nataros was using his dog as a therapy dog, against Island Health policy.
Black Press Media also viewed emails from a third local doctor, working on an expired contract and intending to turn over his practice to someone else, only to be frustrated by lack of Island Health feedback and guidance on how to do that.
“What is my new contract status at present? What do I have for job security from you? What is the recruitment status of new physicians so that I may transition my patients to new physicians?” the physician wonders.
Island Health’s President and CEO Kathy MacNeil said in a statement that Williams has her complete and continued confidence.
“As CEO, I expect Dr. Williams – as the Chief Medical Officer for Island Health – to fully investigate when concerns arise about the quality of care delivered by a member of the medical staff,” she wrote. “Island Health in general, and Dr. Williams in particular, has a responsibility under the medical staff bylaws to ensure patient safety and to fully investigate when concerns arise.
“(Physicians) are well aware of the mechanisms available to them to raise their concerns, including through their Medical Staff Association.”
“At Island Health, our focus remains on stabilizing health-care services in the North Island through the significant commitment recently announced by the Ministry of Health, to build a foundation for the future. We are committed to do this working collaboratively with all of our partners – including the local physician community.
“This is what North Island patients and communities, and our care teams, need and deserve.”