The battle continues between Interior Health and the City of Merritt, B.C. as they search for solutions to try and avoid further hospital closures in that community.
An option to alleviate the problem has been put forward, but it’s one Interior Health (IH) may not approve and that has residents extremely worried.
And they have become accustomed to the closures at the Nicola Valley Hospital.
“Every time we get the notice the hospitals closing, you go like, ‘Let’s not do anything crazy,’ because now you’re in an hour ride,” said Merritt Mayor Michael Goetz.
The Merritt emergency room is dealing with regular closures, which can be attributed to a lack of staff available 24/7. However, Goetz says that is slowly improving.
“There has been some good progress with the nursing situation up at the hospital. They have fixed that with staffing changes and they have posted a new position, they posted for another nurse. We still are working on the doctor situation, that’s going to be a little bit harder,” Goetz said.
In an effort to try and avoid closures, Dr. Robert Granger who lives in Merritt but works for Fraser Health as a surgeon offered his services to IH. However, he doesn’t meet the requirements.
“The issue is he is lacking in family practice apparently, and he needs to bump that up, I get that. But, I don’t understand what the problem is between IHA and Fraser Valley. I mean, he can work at Fraser Valley but he can’t work here,” said Goetz.
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Goetz says he recommended to Dr. Granger to submit a freedom of information request from IH to better understand why the process isn’t moving forward.
IH could not speak about the individual case but said they are doing their best to increase the amount of staff in the city.
“We understand how important rural health care services are to people who live in communities such as Merritt and can confirm that active recruitment is underway for medical staff at Nicola Valley Hospital,” said Dr. Douglas Smith, executive medical director of clinical operations for IH North.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC also cannot comment on the individual case but provided a statement to Global News.
“We can say that registrants are required to practise within the scope of medicine in which they have been trained. They can’t cross disciplines,” read the statement.
When the emergency room closes in Merritt, patients have to travel about an hour to Kelowna or Kamloops. It’s become a commute they no longer want to make.
Goetz says another reason why it’s so important to keep the emergency room open is due to the high volume of traffic seen in the area daily.
“The Coquihalla Highway changes who we are, we end up with anywhere from between 24,000 and 80,000 vehicles through here every single day. If you take one per cent of that, that’s a huge amount of people that might need to be treated here,” he said.
Goetz says he has been speaking with Interior Health each week in search of solutions.