03/14/2012 01:47 EDT | Updated 05/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Doctor shortage shuts northern emergency room

Northern Health has temporarily shut down the emergency room in Fort St. James because of a lack of doctors.

The emergency room at Stuart Lake Hospital will be closed until April, with the exception of the weekends of March 17 and March 24. Openings hours for the following weekend are not yet confirmed.

Northern Health says it just doesn't have enough physicians to run the emergency room, and says all acute care patients are being discharged, or will be transferred to another facility if necessary.

It's advising people who need emergency medical attention to call 911, and says patients can either drives themselves or can be taken by ambulance to the next closest open emergency room in Vanderhoof or Prince George -- which are 60 km and 160 km away respectively.

Northern Health says the rest of the hospital will stay open.

Over Christmas, emergency rooms in Chase and Logan Lake were closed because of doctor shortages, putting thousands of people at risk, according to NDP health critic Mike Farnworth.