North Island Health Care Crisis Continues to Freefall

And patients will pay the price

North Island health care workers are burning out and quitting

In early December, more than 100 people gathered at the Port McNeill Lions Hall to show support for Dr. Prean Armogam.  

The popular family physician has been practicing on the North Island for almost 20 years. In recent years he has been an outspoken critic of Island Health and its inability to deal with staffing shortages, funding and healthcare delivery disruptions.

Port McNeill resident Anita Pichette organized the show of support and said she’s appalled by Island Health’s treatment of Dr. Armogam.

“I’ve seen firsthand how he’s been treated, and I’m really pissed,” Pichette told VanIsle.News in a phone interview. “He’s been my doctor for 14 years, and he was often working seven days a week during COVID.”

Pichette says he was working so much that he was starting to suffer his own health problems. It’s an unsustainable and unhealthy workload, and she says Island Health needs to do much better on the North Island.

Pichette has had numerous conversations with Island Health officials who told her that “all doctors, nurses and paramedics need support.”

“I asked them why it was they were having my doctor work at the Port McNeill for months on end on top of his clinic and outreach work?” Pichette says.

Dr. Armogam says he just wants what’s best for the North Island and his patients but has been labelled a troublemaker.

Last September, Island Health hired two new family doctors to work at the Port McNeill Primary Care Clinic, helping to lighten the load.

However, in Port Hardy, the situation is dire and getting worse. Last week two doctors handed in their resignations because of burnout. That leaves Dr. Alex Nataros as the one ER doc left to serve this town of 4,100 people.

“Does this mean that cancer cases will be diagnosed too late? Yes. Does it mean that patients will potentially die because of care delivered too late? I hope not,” Dr. Alex Nataros told ChekNews. “I’m working hard to try and prevent that; I’m also working hard to try and look after myself and not burnout.”

Island Health says it’s not ignoring the situation. In early November, the health authority participated in a health summit for the Mt. Waddington region.

Information and ideas gathered at the summit will help ”develop strategies to bring stability and predictability to service delivery in the region,” an Island Health spokesperson told VanIsle.News in an emailed statement.