Several ERs close in B.C. Interior as temperatures hit high 30s

With heat warnings in place, several emergency rooms are closed in some small communities in the Interior.

At Merritt’s Nicola Valley Hospital, limited physician availability means the ER is closed for the second time in less than a week and isn’t expected to reopen until Tuesday.

Interior Health says emergency care at the hospital will be closed for 48 hours, but all other inpatient services will continue as normal.

Lillooet’s ER is closed until Monday for the same reason. Patients in both communities are being sent to the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

Merritt is almost 100 kilometres away from Kamloops, while Lillooet is over 200 km away.

Lillooet Mayor Laurie Hopfl says the hospital services 5,000 people from Lillooet and surrounding areas.

“Residents from Gold Bridge, Seton Portage are facing a four-hour drive to the nearest open emergency room,” Hopfl.

“Lillooet is without public transportation, and many of our vulnerable residents walk, they don’t drive, so their only option for emergency health services will be to call 911.”

She says they had less than 12 hours’ notice that the hospital in her community would be closed for more than 24 hours.

Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart says these continued closures are unacceptable.

“When the ER in Lillooet is closed, when the ER in Merritt is closed, and we’re all directed to go to Kamloops … that puts incredible pressure on the staff there and on the system in Kamloops,” she said.

A lack of nurses in Williams Lake meant the ER was closed three consecutive times since Thursday. It reopened Sunday.

Interior Health says people who need “life threatening emergency care,” with symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, should call 911 to be brought to the nearest available facility.

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