Nurses rallied at the community garden behind the Nicola Valley Hospital to protest emergency room closures.

Nurses in the B.C. Nurses’ Union (BCNU) chanted “What do we need?” “More nurses!” “When do we need them?” “Now!”

Since Jan. 1, the Nicola Valley Hospital (NVH) has had two closures out of the 24 closures across hospitals under the jurisdiction of Interior Health. In 2023, the NVH suffered from 20 emergency room closures due to staff shortage.

“The nurses and all healthcare staff providing care here at the Nicola Valley Hospital and in other facilities here in the area are coming to work every day, caring for patients, despite unprecedented staffing shortages,” said regional council member Scott Duvall. “In fact, our vacancy in this hospital right now is at about 54 per cent.”

“This isn’t the first rally I’ve been at at this hospital, and what a shame that we have to rally for services that every community should expect to have,” said Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart, thanking the local nurses on the frontline as well as mayor and council.

Photo/Kenneth Wong.

“I would first of all say ‘thank you’ (to Adrian Dix) for recognizing the fact that we need to do something, we’re looking forward to seeing staffing increased especially in some of our rural facilities,” said a nurse who asked not to be named.

“I think we still need to keep working together, keep inviting BCNU to all of the tables for discussions on how we can improve healthcare, so I would make that request of him,” said the nurse. “And really just have that open dialogue communication, to say, ‘hey, this is this is the information that you’re hearing from the front line.’”

“I think we need to also make sure that the information that’s coming from the health authorities needs to be questioned, needs to be authenticated, so the information that’s being provided, the data that we’re basing decision on, needs to be provided and shared transparently to those people involved and who are affected by it,” the nurse continued.

In March 2024, the provincial government announced a $237 million investment to implement minimum nurse-to-patient ratios.

“In order to implement ratios, there’s a lot of research and data analysis, and really trying to understand what that’s going to look like in practice,” the nurse continued. “The Ministry of Health, in my humble opinion, needs to make sure that they’re a little more eyes on the health authorities and what they’re doing as far as providing data and things like that.”

The rally was attended by representatives from the Lower Nicola Indian Band; NVIT associate dean Ivy McRae; Mayor Mike Goetz and Coun. Wendy Charney; Tegart and Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond; as well as many Merrittonians and drivers passing by, honking their horns in solidarity.