Port Hardy, BC, doctor temporarily suspended from work in the emergency room

dr  Alex Nataros has been a doctor in Port Hardy, Vancouver Island since moving from the Comox Valley.  (Submitted by Dr. Alex Nataros - photo credit)

dr Alex Nataros has been a doctor in Port Hardy, Vancouver Island since moving from the Comox Valley. (Submitted by Dr. Alex Nataros – photo credit)

A family doctor who has openly opposed Island Health has had his emergency room privileges temporarily suspended after the health agency said it received complaints about the quality of his care.

dr Alex Nataros began practicing in the Port Hardy community on north Vancouver Island in 2022 after moving from the Comox Valley. He joined the rotation of primary care physicians covering shifts in the community’s beleaguered emergency room.

Island Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ben Williams, however, said in a statement Thursday that complaints from a patient on Jan. 30 and from other healthcare workers on Jan. 31 had resulted in “serious patient safety concerns” that needed to be investigated.

He did not provide any information about the nature of the complaints.

Meetings were held between Nataros and the island’s health leaders following the complaints.

On February 2, Nataros, who has been publicly speaking out about the North Island’s health care workforce shortage since December, called on Williams to resign. He accused the chief medical officer of workplace harassment and said Williams failed to take the lead.

Williams said he had already decided at that point to suspend Nataros’ privileges in the ER, although Nataros had not yet been informed.

Speaking to CBC News after his suspension, Nataros said he believes the complaint was coerced by an Island Health worker from a patient “to fulfill its purpose of smearing my good name.”

He acknowledged that mistakes are sometimes made, but said: “I am clear and confident in the quality of care I am providing.”

Personnel matters are rarely published

Island Health does not normally share details on personnel matters, but a statement from Dr. Williams states that this is because Nataro’s allegations of workplace harassment are “categorically false.”

“I have a responsibility to clarify the situation publicly,” wrote Dr. Williams.

He wrote that after the complaint against Dr. Nataros let other doctors see the medical records and that he was more worried about safety after hearing from them.

An investigation is now underway.

Shortage of staff in the emergency room

Meanwhile, Nataros is unable to work in any of the ERs he was reportedly scheduled to work in: Port Hardy and Lady Minto on Salt Spring Island.

He says his colleagues are trying to fill in the gaps.

A spokesman for Island Health told CBC it has staffed all shifts through the end of February and will roll out local coverage if needed.

The province had already closed the emergency room in Port Hardy overnight due to a lack of staff for the foreseeable future. Instead, patients have to go to the hospital in Port McNeill – about 30 to 45 minutes away by car.


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