Statement attributable to Dr. Ben Williams, Island Health Vice-President of Medicine, Quality, Research and Chief Medical Officer

The following statement was provided to media on February 8, 2023, attributable to Dr. Ben Williams, Island Health Vice-President of Medicine, Quality, Research and Chief Medical Officer:

I am aware that earlier today Dr. Nataros told media outlets his emergency department privileges are restricted, and he alleged this is due to his comments in the media about me and/or in relation to his dog being in the workplace. 

It is unfortunate he is characterizing the situation in this manner. More importantly, his comments are categorically untrue.

As you know, Island Health generally does not comment on personnel matters. However, Dr. Nataros has made his restriction of privileges public, and made – at best – misleading comments regarding why this has occurred. 

As the Vice President of Medicine and Chief Medical Officer I have a responsibility to clarify the situation to ensure the public, and importantly the patients who access care in our emergency departments, have confidence in the services they receive. I acknowledge I am making these comments reluctantly as personnel matters should be dealt with through the well established channels available to those involved.

Below is a sequence of the events leading to the restriction of Dr. Nataros’ privileges: 

On Monday, January 30th, an Island Health senior medical leader who has responsibility for quality and safety, was alerted to a patient complaint regarding care delivered by Dr. Nataros in the Port Hardy Emergency Department. The complaint was very serious and gave rise to concerns about Dr. Nataros’ ability to safely practice in the Emergency Department. This concern for patient safety was immediately brought to my attention. 

A preliminary investigation was launched within hours of me being notified. This work included obtaining expertise from physicians in relevant specialties and a review of the medical record. This information heightened my concern when it was reported to me.

Based on the information raised to me, I determined Island Health medical leaders must meet with Dr. Nataros before his next emergency department shift, which was scheduled for Friday, February 3rd.

On Wednesday, February 1st, at my direction, Island Health medical leaders met with Dr. Nataros to provide him the opportunity to share his perspective. It is important that we hear the perspective of the care provider in the review process. 

In addition, on January 31st, Island Health medical leaders received correspondence from other members of the care team that raised concerns regarding patient safety and Dr. Nataros.

I carefully considered all of the information provided to me. This included a summary of the February 1st meeting with Dr. Nataros. I also considered our ability to provide patient care; the functioning of the care team; and, first and foremost, patient safety. I considered all of this information in consultation with Island Health senior medical leaders with a variety of clinical backgrounds.

On the afternoon of February 2nd, as I was finalizing my letter to Dr. Nataros to restrict privileges based on all of the information I received and considered, I did become aware of Dr. Nataros’ public call in social media for my resignation and his accusation of harassment. This did not affect my decision-making. My decision had already been made, and I was working on communicating it to Dr. Nataros.

As Chief Medical Officer for Island Health, under the Medical Staff Bylaws and Rules, I am required to take action if I become aware of a serious problem which adversely affects the care or safety of patients. This is a legal obligation and when I become aware of patient care issues I must investigate and take appropriate next steps to ensure patient safety. 

In this case, as Chief Medical Officer, I determined there is a serious concern for patient safety and have restricted Dr. Nataros from working in Island Health emergency departments while a fulsome  investigation takes place into all of the concerns raised. The process for this is outlined in our Medical Staff Bylaws and Rules. In alignment with the Bylaws, Dr. Nataros will have the full opportunity to respond to the concerns. 

Under the Medical Staff Bylaws, Dr. Nataros is entitled to due process and he has been made aware of next steps and has legal counsel to support him through this process. We have also informed Dr. Nataros of other supports that are available to him.

As I stated at the beginning, I am making these comments reluctantly. However, my obligation to ensuring quality and the confidence of those receiving care in our facilities requires me to clarify and correct the misleading and untrue statements made by Dr. Nataros.

My commitment, and the commitment of the medical leaders involved, is to ensure due process is followed, to do our best to mitigate any potential effects on patient access to care during this time, and most importantly ensure patient safety.