Emergency department to expand at Nicola Valley Hospital

By Chad Klassen
November 7, 2016 - 4:22pm Updated: November 8, 2016 - 10:10am

MERRITT, B.C. — Serving nearly 12,000 patients every year, the Nicola Valley Hospital and Health Centre is a cornerstone of the region, not only for residents in merritt but also for people travelling on one of the four area highways that intersect through Merritt. 

But the emergency department is becoming too small to serve the volume of patients it gets now.

"Probably the last three years we've definitely outgrown our space," say nurse Kara Ritchie. 

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says he has noticed the need for more space for a few years now.

"I first toured here two years ago and saw the tremendously compressed space in which they work, and it was clear to me we needed to look at expansion," says Lake.

Those plans are now in place. The province, along with the Thompson Nicola Regional District and local hospital foundation, has come together to make the emergency department bigger, growing from 100 square meters to 500 square meters.

"The new emergency department will provide a trauma room, along with several treatment rooms that will have the latest requirements we need to provide in these emergency departments," says project manager Martin Deheer from Interior Health. "It'll allow the initial treatment of the injured, whether they be through an ambulance arrival or they walk into emergency department." 

Other features include a dedicated ambulance entrance to emergency, a new nurse station, and more privacy for patients that are currently cramed into the department. 

"This project means everything," says Ritchie. "It means an extended area we can work in, it means more timely access for the community to emergency care. It means caring for people, from the smallest things like minor outpatient procedures, all the way to major trauma from the highway."

The emergency department treats patients who've been involved in serious highway crashes, including the tour bus crash in June 2015 that sent many to the Nicola Valley hospital.

The $5.6 million expansion is expected to be completed in about two years. 40% of the project will come from the TNRD, the local hospital foundation has pumped in $700,000, while the provincial government will fund the rest. 

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