In a powerful display of unity and determination, Merrittonians gathered on the streets to protest against the temporary closure of their only emergency room. 

Holding signs that read “Someone Is Going To Die” and “No More ER Closures”, the protesters made it clear that their access to emergency medical care was not something they were willing to sacrifice.

The latest temporary closure announcement made by Interior Health was on July 12, which closed the emergency room for 13 hours, from 7 p.m. Wednesday (July 12) to 8 a.m. Thursday (July 13).

In May, Interior Health Authority told the Herald that staff recruitment and retention efforts for the Nicola Valley were ongoing, with the closures being a last resort measure to address staffing shortages caused by the overall vacancies, short-notice sick calls, and vacation time.

ER closures have been quite the problem for the community of Merritt. Only in 2023, the Nicola Valley Hospital’s emergency room has closed temporarily 11 times due to doctors or nursing shortages.

One of the protesters, Tony Luck said the closures leave the community feeling frustrated.

“There were people there (at the hospital) that were told to go home because the ER was closing,” he said. “If I’m sitting there waiting to see a doctor because I’m in pain and the ER gets closed, and I get sent home, it doesn’t seem like a good thing to be happening.”

Joining the protest to show support, City Councillour Dana Egan said it is frustrating to see the community not getting the health service they need.

“They (the community of Merritt) have to rely on the ER and if something happens, whether they have chest pain or a broken bone, they can’t be treated here,” she said. “They have to go to either Kamloops or Kelowna, which is ridiculous.”

Luck hopes that as the protests continue, the community gets the problem fixed soon.

“It is the community that we are fighting for. You don’t need the ER today, but you might need it tomorrow,” he said. “It’s important that we all get out and make sure that our voices are heard … we want things fixed in our hospital.”