Furstenau calls on Health Minister to acknowledge systemic workplace issues for healthcare professionals and to embrace solutions

February 10, 2023

VICTORIA B.C. – B.C. Green leader Sonia Furstenau today called on Health Minister Adrian Dix to acknowledge the systemic issues facing healthcare in the North Island region and across BC, and to urgently work with healthcare workers to implement solutions.

“We’re in a health care crisis in B.C., and what is needed right now is leadership that is anchored in supporting doctors, nurses, and health care workers so that they can focus on the needs of patients,” Furstenau said.

“We are hearing from more and more doctors who are describing their working conditions as unacceptable, but they cannot speak out for fear of reprisal. In addition, there are two recent reports - the Island Health employee survey and the Doctors of B.C. report - that both paint a picture of an unhealthy workplace culture. 

“It’s important that the people delivering frontline care in this province are able to bring forward solutions, provide feedback, and raise concerns without fear of reprimand or punishment from Health Authorities. The Health Minister needs to take these concerns seriously and be accountable to the health professionals and the public. We cannot expect positive change without acknowledging that there are problems.”

Dr. Alex Nataros, who has been an outspoken advocate for safe work environments for healthcare workers, the need for physician’s assistants, and accessible healthcare delivery on the North Island, announced that he would be launching a community health centre in Port Hardy.

“After speaking out about the dire need for healthcare staffing in Port Hardy, Island Health suspended my emergency privileges for Port Hardy Hospital and Lady Minto Hospital,” Dr. Nataros said. “This has left healthcare gaps in Port Hardy and on Saltspring Island, while putting even more stress on the remaining doctors. 

“Now, instead of working, I am having to use my time to advocate for more staffing support, which should include the invaluable work of physician’s assistants, so that these communities have the healthcare they need. 

“I am also now taking steps to start a community health centre in Port Hardy with several colleagues. I am grateful for the support of our local Rotary Club and Hardy Bay Pharmacy in this endeavour to provide accessible healthcare to our community.”

Last week, Furstenau and B.C. Green deputy leader Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi called for the B.C. NDP to support the transition to community health centres (CHCs) across the province. CHCs are team-based environments where healthcare practitioners can collaborate on patient care. 

“When I started to speak out on healthcare issues, I did so because I felt remaining silent was complicit to the misinformation,” Dr. Gandhi added. “Time and time again, I witnessed administrators put optics before truth and self-interest ahead of patients. The narrative was more important than the people. 

“I left my employment as a Cardiac surgeon because I could not stand idly by. I realized that the only way to fix problems in the system was to step outside it, extricate myself from the culture of fear and intimidation, and use my experience and knowledge to hopefully reshape it. 

“Positive change can only happen if we listen to those working inside the system, the healthcare professionals that are there for all the right reasons - to provide the best possible care to patients - but who also appreciate the limitations, witness the problems, and can contribute to the solutions. It is only through listening that we will truly meet the healthcare needs of British Columbians.”

Quotes from non-partisan advocates

“Physician Assistants (PAs) are advanced practice clinicians who are educated in a medical school model and practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician with negotiated autonomy, as part of a health care team. The quality of care and both the economic value and efficiency that PAs bring to healthcare has been studied globally for over 40 years. 

“Over the last 24 years, Canadian PAs have improved access to care by helping physicians substantially grow their rosters and see more patients. There is a dire need for more health care professionals, especially in our rural communities. PAs offer an ability for these rural communities to have access to physician quality medical care without travelling extensive distances. PA’s could very shortly begin working in BC once the Ministry of Health gives direction to the College of Physician and Surgeons of BC to authorize physician oversight of PAs in the province.”

Lisa Stewart, B.C. Director for the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants

“In a small community like Port Hardy, working closely with the doctors  such as Dr. Nataros has been instrumental in providing high quality patient care. When Port Hardy's emergency room is closed, patients come into the pharmacy with hospital worthy ailments that we are not equipped nor trained to help them with. The lack of consistent and stable health care through staffing at the hospital is creating a crisis in our community.”

Kristen Ireton, Pharmacy Manager/Owner, Hardy Bay Drugstore (Port Hardy, BC)

“B.C. Health Care Matters is a patient advocacy group supporting the need for every resident of B.C. to have timely access to Primary Care.  Reasonable access to healthcare services is a right for all residents of BC under the Canada Health Act.  In communities like northern Vancouver Island, residents depend on their hospitals  not only for acute care but primary care as well.  When Hospitals are understaffed or closed, patients’ lives are at risk.”

Camille Currie, President of B.C. Health Care Matters


- 30 -


Media contact
+1 778-650-0597
[email protected]

Donate Get Involved