– Story by Jon Gauthier

A Comox Valley doctor is calling on Vancouver Island’s medical health officer to consider an Island Health regional “COVID-19 bubble.” 

In an open letter to The Comox Valley Record, Dr. Alexander E. Nataros with Port Augusta Family Practice in Comox said since the pandemic began, he has been working endlessly to serve his patients.

“Like many of my colleagues, I have been working consistent 12-14-hour days to address the needs of my patient population since the spring – addressing my sizeable chronic, complex care population, ‘tuning them up’ to the best of my abilities, and addressing the invariable – and considerable – anxieties this global COVID-19 pandemic has wrought,” Nataros says.

“There has also been a sizable impact on my younger patient population, including an anecdotal increase in anxiety and mental health challenges,” he says, “as well as my opioid-dependence patient population, including tragically two overdose deaths in this period.”

Dr. Nataros says as other health authorities are not following public health guidelines and reporting higher case counts of COVID-19, Vancouver Island could lead by example if it were “bubbled” from the mainland.  

“In light of markedly increased rates of COVID-19 test positivity and prevalence in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, which stand in stark contrast with the low rates we have preserved in the Island Health region, as well as clear violations of Public Health guidelines including well documented Oct. 31st, public celebrations in downtown Vancouver, I would respectfully ask that, as our North Island Medical Health Officer, you consider advocating for an Island Health regional COVID-19 ‘bubble.’”

“As PHO Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the week of Oct. 26th, you now have the scope and authority for more region-specific guidelines. I hope that you and our Public Health officers continue your excellent work to date, and move forward with the leadership our region needs.”

You can see the full letter in detail below:

The following is an open letter to Island Health medical health officer, Dr. Charmaine Enns.

“Dear Dr. Enns,

I would greatly appreciate your consideration here of this request – an open-letter – I am writing on behalf of my ~1,600-patient practice in Comox, B.C. where I live and work in hospital and clinic settings.

Like many of my colleagues, I have been working consistent 12-14-hour days to address the needs of my patient population since the spring – addressing my sizeable chronic, complex care population, ‘tuning them up’ to the best of my abilities and addressing the invariable – and considerable – anxieties this global COVID-19 pandemic has wrought.

There has also been a sizable impact on my younger patient population, including an anecdotal increase in anxiety and mental health challenges, as well as my opioid-dependence patient population, including tragically two overdose deaths in this period.

In light of markedly increased rates of COVID-19 test positivity and prevalence in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, which stand in stark contrast with the low rates we have preserved in the Island Health region, as well as clear violations of Public Health guidelines including well documented Oct. 31, 2020 public celebrations in downtown Vancouver, I would respectfully ask that, as our North Island Medical Health Officer, you consider advocating for an Island Health regional COVID-19 ‘bubble.’ As PHO Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the week of Oct. 26, you now have the scope and authority for more region-specific guidelines. I hope that you and our Public Health officers continue your excellent work to date, and move forward with the leadership our region needs.

There is ample evidence from Atlantic Canada, Australia, New Zealand and East Asia of the efficacy of this approach where there are stark differences in prevalence.

Sincerely,

Alexander E. Nataros, Port Augusta Family Practice, Comox BC

BSc MD CM CCFP”