11/29/2013 22:51 EST | Updated 01/29/2014 05:59 EST

No surgeons in B.C.'s Peace region until Tuesday

Anyone needing surgery in northeast B.C.'s Peace River region will either be transferred to another city, or have to wait until Tuesday.

Three surgeons serve the region — two based in Fort St. John and one in Dawson Creek — and all three are away at the same time because of a scheduling mistake.

According to Northern Health spokesperson Steve Raper, the three surgeons have been away for the last week.

"It is not normal, and it shouldn't happen, and certainly our VP medicine and medical director are going to work to make sure that doesn't happen again," he Raper.

No elective surgeries were scheduled to take place while the surgeons were away but, until they are back, there will be no coverage for emergency surgeries.

"Now, that doesn't mean the emergencies are shut down, and that doesn't mean we don't continue to work," Raper said. "It simply means when a physician determines an emergency surgery is needed, say an appendectomy or something like that, they'll be transported through our normal system to a facility to get that done."

Raper said patients requiring urgent procedures will be transported to another hospital in either Prince George, Vancouver, Edmonton or Grande Prairie, Alta.

Raper insists the Peace Region has enough surgeons to meet its needs.

Potential for disaster

But Fort St. John resident Colin Waddell said the situation is unacceptable.

"I'm thinking about the potential for disaster. Not if, but when there's a serious car accident and somebody requires immediate surgical assistance, they're going to die,” he said. "There's no time to fly people to Grande Prairie or Prince George when time is of the essence.”

He only found out about the lack of surgeons when he accompanied his wife, who has cancer, to the emergency room to have her feeding tube replaced.

Waddell said she had her procedure done the day before the surgeon left. However, he said if his wife had needed the replacement even a couple of days later, they would have had to make the two hour trip by road to Grande Prairie.