Merritt has always struck me as a passionate and caring community, and a recent event I attended reminded me of that in an unexpected way.

This weekend, while covering the rally for healthcare during the Nicola Valley Hospital’s tenth closure of the year, I had the pleasure of chatting with a number of locals who shared their concerns and opinions with me. While it would be understandable for Nicola Valley residents to be infuriated, and some were, most had a simple message – they are worried for the vulnerable and members of the community.

What I heard most from those I talked to on Sunday was a great level of concerns for the ‘other’ – the players at the softball tournament down the street, the families travelling the highways that wind through town, and the community members with health conditions that need access to an emergency room. 

To be clear, everyone needs and deserves access to an emergency room, but some need it more than others. The story of Myra Ireland, a local senior, moved me. During the last ER closure, fell and injured her face to the point of needing stitches. Despite this, Myra refused an ambulance ride to Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital out of fear that she would take the spot of someone else in a more critical situation. She told me that she never should have had to make that decision in the first place – and I agree.

While the issue could somewhat be fixed by finding doctors and nurses to fill the temporary vacancies that cause our ER to shutter, the problem is much deeper and more complex, and must take overall vacancies in rural healthcare into account. Merritt deserves consistent healthcare, along with all other rural locations, and more effort must be made to find concrete and permanent solutions.