Photo Credit: Dr. Alex Notoros | Alex Notoros

Port Hardy Doctor Offers to Pay for Help Out of His Own Pocket

If nothing changes, he'll be the only ER physician in town.

Dr. Alex Nataros is desperate enough to fund physician assistant salary himself.

The shortage of medical professionals in North Isle is driving people to extremes.

Dr. Alex Nataros just recently started working in the town of 4,000, and he’s already offering to pay to get an extra pair of hands.

“As of July 1, am I going to be calling on the government to call in the military to provide medical care in Port Hardy?” he asked the Times Colonist.

Unless something changes, Dr. Nataros is set to be the only ER physician in Port Hardy by this summer.

All three of the other doctors now working in Port Hardy’s ER will be gone by the end of June.

Even with a staff of four doctors working, the department is still far from functioning well.

Island Health has just sent a notice announcing the most recent extension in a long series of ER closures this year. They are claiming yet again a “staff shortage” as the cause.

It will be closed from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily through to the morning of Feb. 6. 

The stress is pushing the physician to pick up Island Health’s slack himself.

“Unfortunately, our situation now is potentially that dire,” he said.

Physicians Assistants could be a vital aid to help cover the shortage of healthcare professionals in BC.

The Ministry of Health, however, has yet to approve their employment in BC.

They are leaving rural communities that could intensely benefit from their help understaffed.

“From my perspective, it is a no-brainer. … It is a proven cost-effective and culturally safe way of delivering care,” said Dr.Nataros.

Dr. Notaros has previously worked with physician assistants in rural Manitoba and saw “how transformational they are to rural and remote healthcare delivery.”

To help the same transformation take place here, he said he’s willing to pay the salary and benefits for a physician assistant himself.

About $80,000 to $100,000 a year.

It is a heck of a financial burden to add to the town’s already overworked physician, but he says the help would be well worth it.

“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,” he told Comox Valley Now.

He says the needed regulatory framework is in place, and physician assistants could begin working in the province tomorrow if Health Minister Adrian Dix gives a thumbs up.

Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt and the Port Hardy council have added their voices in support of his application.

Corbett-Labatt sent a letter on Friday to Dix, urging the province to authorize using physician assistants. 

As far as improving the health system on North Isle goes, Dr. Notoros also said this is only the beginning.

In five years, he hopes to have a full staff of physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners working together to improve healthcare outcomes.

But for now, he just wants that to start with one.