Merritt will soon gain another physician, with Merrittonian Dr. Ajhmair Lali returning to the Nicola Valley from university later this year to begin his medical career at home. Lali will join The Medical Clinic, who announced in January of this year that Dr. Morgan Lyttle would be closing his practice as early as April 2023. 

The new doctor’s practice will consist of a combination of two recently closed practices, Dr. Simpson and Dr. Lyttle. The clinic said that while it is unfortunate they are not able to accommodate all previous patients to become Lali’s patients at this time, they do not maintain a waitlist, nor will one be created, as the clinic already has such an extensive list of patients requiring a physician.

“As everyone is aware we have had two practices close recently in Merritt,” wrote the clinic in its posting to a local Facebook group. “With that being said, this has left an approximate 3,100 people without a family doctor in our medical system which is already struggling.”

Merritt currently has five doctors with local practices, including Dr. Drew Soderberg and Dr. Patrick Goetz of The Medical Clinic, who will soon be joined by Lali. The Nicola Valley Medical Centre on Granite Avenue is home to Dr. Duncan Ross and Dr. Donald McLeod, with Dr. Paul Simon also having a local practice at Mountain Medical Clinic in the Railyard Mall. Merritt also has one nurse practitioner (NP) who operates out of Conayt Friendship Centre.

Once Lali joins The Medical Clinic in the coming months, Merritt will be up to six doctors, but The Medical Clinic said in its post that work is ongoing to recruit another doctor. Lali was raised in Merritt, graduating from Merritt Secondary School before starting his medical school journey. The clinic added in their post that a regulation by the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons stating that physicians are generally not supposed to treat themselves, their family members, or others close to them creates unique challenges in a small community.

“This is challenging in a rural community, however, we will be following the guidelines of the College,” added the post. “As difficult as it is with so many people needing a physician, we will be building Dr. Lali a balanced practice based on medical needs and ages of patients within our city. We are being as fair as possible in creating his practice. As there is not a list to be placed on, there is no need to text, call, or e-mail Dr. Lali, his family, or the Staff of The Medical Clinic to try and gain access to his practice.”

The Interior Health website for physician recruitment currently lists four job postings in the Nicola Valley, including one emergency medicine physician, and three family physicians.