06/15/2012 07:04 EDT | Updated 08/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Northern emergency room closed until July

A doctor shortage in Fort St. James has forced Northern Health to close the community's emergency room until the end of the month, leaving residents feeling helpless and scared.

At full staff the Stuart Lake Hospital, serving a community of almost 1700, has five doctors. Right now, only one doctor is in the community full-time.

Ann Marie Sam, of Fort St. James, said the emergency room closure is stressful. She's already had to drive 45 minutes to the nearest emergency room in Vanderhoof after her son had a seizure earlier this month.

"There was a lot of stuff going through my mind... are we going to get there in time? What if something else happens? What if he has another seizure?" she said.

Micheal McMillan, Northern Health's Chief Operating Officer, said the health authority is working to bring in temporary physicians as a short-term solution.

"I absolutely recognize that it's not enough. We believe there needs be five full-time physicians, and we are nowhere near to providing that," McMillan said.

McMillan said Northern Health is trying to recruit permanent doctors, which he said is an ongoing challenge for rural and remote communities across B.C.