A petition created by the organizer of the recent rallies against ongoing closures of the Nicola Valley Hospital’s emergency department is gaining steam, including more than 8,000 signatures, and an introduction in the BC Legislature.

The hospital’s ER has been closed ten times in 2023, with the diversions increasing in frequency since they became common last year. During the tenth diversion of emergency department services at the Nicola Valley Hospital since the beginning of this year, roughly 50 residents of the valley gathered on the hospital’s green space to rally against what many see as a lack of provincial action on the issue, followed by two other rallies at Central Park in following weeks. 

The online petition on Change.org was created at the beginning of May, and since has garnered more than 8,100 signatures. Organizer Georgia Clement told the Herald that community support has been strong, with travellers also signing after she called on them to support the ER that services not only Nicola Valley residents, but also the travelling public. 

A petition calling on Interior Health Authority to end intermittent closures of the Nicola Valley Hospital’s emergency department has over 8,000 signatures. Photo/Change.org

“I think what happened was, about halfway through, I opened it [the petition] a bit more, and I did what was called a ‘petition update,’ and I reworded some text,” said Clement.

“Basically, I called on the people driving up and down the highways, and letting them know that this petition is available to them, and that it should concern them that they could have a very serious accident, and maybe they wouldn’t have enough time to get to Kamloops or Kelowna hospital if the Nicola Valley hospital is closed.”

The petition was recently introduced to the BC Legislature during the last week of its spring sitting, with Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart presenting the petition during normal house proceedings. Clement said that while she was encouraged Tegart brought up the issue, she was  disappointed by the lack of a complete introduction and speech on the topic, which she feels other MLAs did in more detail and with more passion when rising to present their petitions.

Clement said that she may reach out to Tegart for clarity on the issue, although she added that it could have just been a ‘slip’ on the MLA’s part. She added that she is grateful for Tegart’s presentation of the petition, which included a cover letter with more information and a call for Health Minister Adrian Dix to address the closures. Clement’s focus is now on garnering more support for the petition. 

“Hopefully, we just keep growing and growing, because I think that this isn’t really just a Merritt issue anymore,” added Clement. “This also does concern travellers on the Coquihalla, many of whom are constant travellers, and I think that they need to be aware of the closures that we’re having.” 

Along with Tegart, Merritt’s mayor and council have supported the ongoing rallies, including the Mayor’s calls for Interior Health to investigate the situation and act immediately on it. Rally organizers and some supporters have also called previously for a restoral of previous services at the hospital, such as maternity and surgical wards. 

To view the petition, visit https://www.change.org/p/no-more-emergency-room-closures-at-nicola-valley-hospital