The mayor of Merritt, British Columbia wants the provincial health authority to bring back unvaccinated healthcare workers who were fired due to provincial Covid-19 vaccine mandates, as the city faces protests over repeat emergency room closures in the city and across the province.

On Saturday, a group of Nicola Valley residents demonstrated against the 10th closure of the local emergency department since December. 

Mayor Mike Goetz has made a request to Interior Health to drop remaining Covid-19 vaccination requirements and hire back the unvaccinated healthcare workers who were put on leave.

“This hospital, years ago, was a fully functional hospital. All 40 beds were out. We had surgeons, we had babies born here. This is not a magical situation. It’s happened before and it needs to be returned to that,” said Goetz.

Goetz is expected to discuss the issue with the province’s Health Minister Adrian Dix this week.

Protest organizer Georgia Clement has accused Interior Health of putting politics before the safety of British Columbians. 

“People here are in danger. (Interior Health) is making decisions and they’re playing with our lives. They’re playing politics with our lives — literally,” organizer Georgia Clement told CFJC Today.

The town’s emergency department was forced to shutter its doors due to a staff shortage and those seeking emergency services are required to drive an hour or more to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops or Kelowna General Hospital.

One of those attending the demonstration said her father died earlier this year after he was sent home by the hospital. 

“The hospital was closing in two hours. They sent him on his way home. Last thing I remember my dad saying was, ‘I’m scared.’ But he passed away in the night,” said Melanie Griffiths.