Skip to content

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA reacts to hospital ER closures

After four consecutive nights of emergency room closures at the Caribo Memorial Hospital (CMH) MLA Lorne Doerkson is calling for Interior Health to make changes.
Lorne Doerkson is the Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA. (Photo submitted)

After four consecutive overnight closures of the emergency room (ER) July 4 to 7 at Cariboo Memorial Hospital (CMH), Interior Health needs to make changes.

This is what Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson is saying after the series of closures which have upset Doerkson and many in the community.

Interior Health announced the ER would be closed, one hour before coming into effect each evening, attributing a lack of sufficient nursing staff for the closure. The emergency room, in addition to dealing with life-threatening situations, is the only option for primary health care access for many residents in Williams Lake and the surrounding area, as many patients are without a general practioner or nurse practitioner.

Interior Health has said it works up until the last possible moment to try and fill the shifts.

"I think that our residents are really at a boiling point on this," said Doerkson, adding Interior Health is the one who has to solve this issue.

"We have been talking about this for years now," he said, and he feels suggestions have been put forward but he's not seeing IH make a path to move any of the proposed changes forward.

Doerkson said he just returned from a trip to remote parts of the Chilcotin over the weekend. Doerkson had been out in the west Chilcotin at the Anahim Lake Stampede and areas south of Tatla Lake, where it would have taken nearly four hours just to reach Williams Lake had they needed to get someone to medical attention.

While out west, he was shocked when he was informed the CMH ER was closing once again on only one hour's notice.

Doerkson pointed out how in the remote region of the Chilcotin, where there is no cell service, people could be driving for four hours to reach a medical facility, only to arrive and find out the hospital in Williams Lake was closed. Knowing sooner could help people make better decisions on where they should go.

But while the late notice is frustrating, he said even more frustrating is simply the lack of medical care coverage for the area.

"This is a regional hospital serving tens of thousands of people," he said. 

"It cannot go on like this," he said. "It's just too big of an area to have this happening."

Doerkson said there still remains no clarity on what the real problem is and what has actually been done to solve it. 

He said he appreciates it is a complex issue, but not allowing health care workers to talk openly about the issue is not helping.

"If there was one thing that we need to be doing right now, it's having massive open conversations on how to fix this," he said.

Other emergency rooms in the Interior Health Authority have experienced closures, but Cariboo Memorial Hospital had not had a closure of the facility until February of 2024. Since then, the facility has closed seven times.




Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
Read more