Facing the loss of two fellow doctors, a physician in Port Hardy and the mayor are urging Health Minister Adrian Dix to approve the hiring of a physician assistant.
Dr. Alex Nataros says that last week, two doctors announced they are leaving Port Hardy at the end of June, which means he will be “the only doctor in Port Hardy working in our emergency room,” as of July 1.
Dr. Nataros says he has already hired a physician assistant but now needs approval from the minister.
“I have arranged payments, and benefits will be coming out of my pocket, I’m so clear that this will more than pay for itself, all I require is Minister Adrian Dix to give the thumbs up.”
Dr. Nataros says he has been in touch with Dr. Heidi Oetter, the registrar and CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, who is “adamant and clear that they support the use of physician assistants,” but require some direction from the health minister.
He says a regulatory framework is in place, and physician assistants could begin working in the province tomorrow if Dix gives the go-ahead.
“They have been used in the Canadian military for over 60 years, they are employed currently across Canada, in Alberta, in Manitoba where I worked with physician assistants with great effect,” Dr. Nataros says, but the health minister does not understand their role in the health care team.
“They are a proven, cost effective way to serve a population that is underserved,” Nataros says of physician assistants, ”just the solution we need to the healthcare crisis in the North Island.”
Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt and the Port Hardy council are voicing their support for his application. Dr. Nataros is receiving assistance from Lisa Stewart of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants.
In a letter to Dix and Premier David Eby, Mayor Corbett-Labatt says attracting and keeping healthcare professionals in the community remains difficult and acts as an ongoing barrier to stable healthcare services in Port Hardy.
Mayor Corbett-Labatt and the council are calling on the provincial government to consider broader options in health care delivery to address the staffing crisis in rural communities.