B.C. Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau said doctors in the provincial health care are frustrated with their working conditions and it’s time for the province to improve them.
“We need to focus on the health and well-being of British Columbians and to achieve that, we need to ensure that the health and well-being of doctors and health care professionals is also being taken care of,” Furstenau said. “I’m asking health minister Adrian Dix to acknowledge and recognize systemic workplace issues that are in our health care system.”
The provincial health system finds itself in a crisis, yet health care workers do not feel valued, she added.
“I want health care workers to know that you have an ally in the B.C. Green Party,” Furstenau said. “We hear you, we won’t stop until you feel safe and supported to do the work we need you to do, which is to put patient care at the centre of your efforts.”
She made these comments during a news conference Friday morning where she cited various documents showing dissatisfaction among health care workers.
“A leaked Island Health employee satisfaction survey was damning,” she said Tuesday. “Of the 11,000 staff who responded, less than half felt satisfied with their management. Worst of all, (the) overwhelming perception was that Island Health does not care about their well-being.”
She also cited a 2022 report from Doctors of BC that Island Health physicians have the lowest satisfaction with their health authority in the province, adding it’s been declining year-over-year.
“Doctors speaking out about their serious concerns about patient safety are threatened, punished and silenced,” she said. Island Health isn’t just punishing doctors, though. They’re punishing entire communities. The patients who are going without care are the ones who the minister must be accountable to.”
Furstenau hammered this point home Friday by standing next to a group of health care professionals, including Dr. Alex Nataros, who had travelled from Port Hardy to attend the news conference. Nataros has been a vocal critic of the provincial health care system generally and Island Health specifically, having called for the resignation of Island Health’s chief medical officer Dr. Ben Williams.
Island Health recently suspended Nataros’ emergency room privileges and launched an investigation after having received a patient complaint. Both Dix and Williams have publicly said Nataros’ suspension had nothing to do with his call for Williams’ resignation.
Nataros has been an advocate for a community that has been “deeply under-served” by the health care system and the focus should lie on making sure that Port Hardy residents receive the best possible care, she added. Port Hardy has grappled with emergency room closures and Nataros has warned that the pending departure of two physicians this summer will leave the community dangerously short of physicians.
Nataros also used the occasion to repeat his call for allowing physician assistants to work in provincial health care, adding that they have proven themselves in places where they are allowed.
The only person who seems to be against them is Dix, he added.
Furstenau repeated calls for the government to shift toward a community-health-centre model. She also agreed with Nataros about allowing physician assistants.
Dix has not closed the door of allowing physician assistants, but also tempered expectations.
He said government has put $30 million toward improving health care on northern Vancouver Island while moving toward a new payment system for doctors, which will improve compensation while allowing them to focus on patient care.
“We always have to do better,” he said Tuesday. “We always have to work harder with staff people. We always have to work harder with our teams to make sure that they’re involved in decisions, but I have confidence in Island Health to do so.”