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Recurring Merritt ER closures ‘unacceptable’: MLA

As Merritt’s Nicola Valley Hospital faces its second temporary ER closure in four days, a local MLA is calling on government to address the recurring issue in rural B.C.

Emergency services in Merritt were unavailable Friday and Monday due to a lack of doctors, according to Interior Health.

Normally, Interior Health says the emergency services would be available 24/7. Without this service available, Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart says patients are being redirected to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, which she says is simply too far away.

“Merritt is a hub of highways in B.C. I was on the highway yesterday and the roads were horrific,” she said.

“To think that a person who usually would be able to go to the ER in Merritt if something happened, to casually say ‘Just get in your car and go to Kamloops,’ that’s just so unacceptable.”

Tegart calls the closures “frustrating,” after having sent letters, organized rallies and set up meetings to try to fix the recurring issue.

“The unfortunate thing that happens as we see intermittent closures of the ER, is people lose trust in the system,” she said.

“People in Merritt and people in the province are saying ‘that’s not good enough.'”

Tegart says she’s talked to the mayor of Merritt and together, they’re asking for a meeting with the province’s health minister and Interior Health.

She says in October, B.C. announced $7.5 million in funding to help address staffing issues in Merritt, Oliver and Salmon Arm hospitals.

Now, Tegart says she wants to see the province fulfill the promises they’ve made and she wants an update on the funding.

“It’s not good enough for someone to post something on social media and say ‘Oh, by the way, the ER is closed,'” she said.

“People don’t want that to be their normal.”

The best case scenario, Tegart says, is to have a clear plan of action that means the ER will remain open 24/7, like “it’s supposed to be.”

“Interior Health has a mandate to provide that service and government needs to make them accountable for that mandate,” she said.

Merritt’s ER is set to reopen on Tuesday at 8 a.m.

-With files from Catherine Garrett

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