The expanded and redeveloped emergency department at Nicola Valley Hospital and Health Centre is strengthening patient care for people in Merritt and area through improved infrastructure, which includes features that foster equality and inclusion in British Columbia's health-care system.
"Nicola Valley Hospital and Health Centre plays a critical role for local residents needing care as well as those travelling through on busy area highways," said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. "Our government is proud to support this new, larger and modern emergency department, which is enhancing critical care for people and will support the region for years to come.
"In addition to being an expanded and more efficient space, the redeveloped emergency department also reflects how equality is the underlying foundation of our public health-care system. To this end, the emergency department now includes two rainbow crossings and significant First Nations artwork to make this local hospital a welcoming and inclusive space for all members of the local community," said Dix.
MLA for Fraser-Nicola Jackie Tegart has long championed this expansion and was ecstatic to be on hand for the grand opening.
“It goes beyond politics, it’s about service to community,” began MLA Tegart. “This community had this project in mind for a great many years. We were very fortunate to have Terry Lake visit the facility, and for the doctors and staff to explain to him the challenges they were having. And before the last election we had the commitment for the funding. So, the foundation and the auxiliary fundraising was absolutely critical to the project. With community support and working together this is what happens.”
At 500 square metres (5,380 square feet), the new emergency department is approximately four times larger and features expanded trauma and treatment areas. It also provides increased privacy and better infection control measures, a medication room and confidential triage area, as well as a covered ambulance bay with a dedicated entrance.
Norene Parke, Superintendent for the Fraser Cariboo at BC Emergency Health Services, spoke to what the expansion has meant for the front-line workers, and paramedics.
“From a paramedic’s point of view, certainty having a state of the art facility like we have now in the Nicola Valley General Hospital Emergency, aids in patients care, in terms of we have patient confidentially, we’re going quietly into a room, family can come with us, there is lots of room and space. Great turnover and exchange of information between the paramedics and the nurses and doctors. It’s fantastic.”
Doors to the new emergency department opened Oct. 10, 2018. Since that time, other work has been done to finalize the project, including relocating treatment areas into the newly expanded section of the emergency department. This work reached substantial completion in March 2019.
More than 8,500 patients have come through since opening last October. This is an average of 35 patients a day, which is expected to increase during the busier summer months.
There are also two new rainbow crosswalks, recently installed on-site as part the final stages of the emergency department's redevelopment - one outside the department's entrance and the other inside. The idea of rainbow crosswalks in the community was originally raised by students at Merritt Secondary last spring.
"Regardless of what they might symbolize for you, it's always uplifting to see a rainbow. Over the past year, I've seen countless rainbows pop up around Merritt, each one a promise of a safe and welcoming space for our LGBTQ2s+ friends, neighbours and students. Thank you to Minister Dix and his colleagues at Interior Health for making a point of adding this beautiful symbol of inclusion to Merritt's new ED," said Kati Spencer, a teacher at Merritt Secondary.
As well, the hospital is now home to art produced by revered artist Clint George of the Okanagan Nation, symbolizing earth, fire and water, as well as five feathers symbolizing the five area Indigenous bands: Shackan Indian Band, Nooaitch Indian Band, Coldwater Indian Band, Upper Nicola Indian Band and Lower Nicola Indian Band.
"This artwork is striking and resonates how this hospital, its staff and Interior Health are committed to the delivering culturally appropriate care. Together with the rainbow crossings, the redeveloped site underscores how everyone who enters the health-care system is to be treated with equal respect, and how public health care has a clear role to foster a more inclusive society," said Dix.
"I thank everyone who made this happen, including those at Nicola Valley Hospital, Clint George, people in the community, Interior Health, and the students from Merritt Secondary," added Dix.
The cost of the emergency department project is approximately $6.5 million, which was shared by the provincial government, Interior Health and Thompson Regional Hospital District. The Nicola Valley Health Care Endowment Foundation and Nicola Valley Health Care Auxiliary raised funds for equipment. A donor recognition wall is being installed.
"The membership of the Nicola Valley Health Care Auxiliary is very pleased to have been able to assist in the funding for the new emergency department in the Nicola Valley Hospital. Without the support of the community and our volunteers at the thrift shop, we would not have been able to reach our goal of $150,000. We would like to thank everyone for their assistance. Congratulations to Interior Health for providing much-needed services to our community and the surrounding area," said Jacquie Hall, president, Nicola Valley Health Care Auxiliary.
Built in 1964, Nicola Valley Hospital and Health Centre is near the intersection of four highways, including the Coquihalla, and serves a population of approximately 12,000 people.
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