Mayor Mike Goetz said his frustration level is getting to a boiling point every time there is a new closure announcement of the emergency room at Nicola Valley Hospital.

“I’m disappointed with the fact that our hospital can’t stay open to service people,” he said.

On July 12, Interior Health Authority (IHA) announced the 11th temporary closure of the emergency room at the Nicola Valley Hospital just this year. The ER was closed for 13 hours, from 7 p.m. on Wednesday (July 12) to 8 a.m. Thursday (July 13).

During this latest closure, a medical incident happened right at the parking lot of the Nicola Valley Hospital. According to Dave Tomkinson, Merritt’s fire chief, a person was having trouble breathing and communicating with firefighters.

Tomkinson said in an email that “despite the ambulance station being attached to the hospital”, his crew were “ahead of the paramedics by several minutes as they were an out-of-town crew.” The victim ultimately had to be taken by ambulance to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, 85 kilometres away.

After the last closure, Mayor Goetz keeps calling for more support from the provincial government.

“It’s up to the province to keep this hospital open,” he said. “I’m hoping that the Minister of Health Adrian Dix, and his crew have a fix for this, because it’s not just us. It’s Clearwater, and Ashcroft, and Oliver, and us.”

The mayor said staffing shortages along with other issues also happen in bigger cities, such as Surrey, Vancouver, or Kamloops, but those are taken care of very quickly.

“It seems to be very normal for a smaller community, or village to have their hospital closed without anybody thinking anything of it from the government,” he said. “So they’ve (the provincial government) got to have the same game plan that they do for the big cities for the smaller cities and villages.”

He also reminded that the Nicola Valley Hospital is a key health service not only to the community of Merritt, but also to the five First Nations bands and people who live rurally in the countryside.

“A lot of them either don’t get the notice that we are closed because they’re not on voyant. They drive into town only to find out the hospital is closed,” the mayor said. “It affects everybody around us, it also affects every single person that’s driving through Merritt on the Coquihalla.”

Mayor Goetz said he has requested the Interior Health Authority (IHA) to investigate the emergency room closures happening so often, but never received an answer on whether they are looking into it. 

“I think out of the 13 times that we’ve been closed, I’ve, at least, asked for five times and never got an answer whether they’re going to look at anything,” he said. “Obviously they’re not because they keep closing us down.”

The mayor assured that Merrittonians can count of him and city council to continue to fight for the hospital to stay open.

“As the City (of Merritt), we will continue to push forward. As the mayor, I’ll continue to push work.”