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North Island Doctor says Call for Help Remains Unanswered

The Port Hardy doctor calling on Health Minister Adrian Dix to approve the use of a Physician Assistant says last week’s announcement concerning healthcare for Northern Vancouver Island does not provide the immediate solution needed by communities in the region.

Dr. Alex Nataros says establishing 24/7 hours of operation at the emergency department of Port McNeil Hospital, and regular overnight emergency department closures at Port Hardy Hospital and the Cormorant Island Health Care Centre, will provide stability.

He adds that a promised investment of 30-million dollars in future healthcare initiatives in the region is also good news.

However, Dr. Nataros could really use the Physician Assistant he has hired. Without additional practitioners for the North Island, he says the latest funding is like “buying planes without hiring pilots.”

Dr. Nataros says communities on the north Island are remote and often indigenous, with a history in some places of trauma from the past treatment of people in First Nations.

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He says other doctors in the area are interested in hiring Physician Assistants, but are prevented by an administrative hurdle that “amounts to systemic racism.”

According to Dr. Nataros, “every day that goes by without me being able to have a physician assistant, there is harm being done” and he adds those affected the most are marginalized and underserved residents of the region, who are often Indigenous.

He says that in addition to handling diagnosis and treatment, Physician Assistants can reduce the hours doctors need to spend on administrative tasks.

A study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found Canadian doctors spend “approximately 18.5 million hours on unnecessary paperwork and administrative tasks each year, the equivalent of an incredible 55.6 million patient visits annually.”

The CFIB report, called Patients Before Paperwork, urges provincial and territorial governments to take action, and says reducing physician red tape by 10 per cent could be the equivalent of 5.5 million patient visits across Canada.

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