12/05/2013 01:40 EST | Updated 02/04/2014 05:59 EST

Plans made to keep a Regina emergency room open 24 hours through December

REGINA - The Regina health region says it has arranged to keep the city's Pasqua Hospital emergency department open overnights until the end of December.

Dr. David McCutcheon, spokesman for the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region, says doctors are working additional shifts and other physicians will stand in temporarily to keep the department staffed.

"It is a great relief to everyone to know that emergency health-care needs will continue to be addressed at both Regina emergency departments on a 24-hour basis over the holiday period," McCutcheon said Thursday.

"We will continue to review options for coverage in January with our physicians and partners."

The health region said in November that the Pasqua ER would have to close overnights for at least three months because of a doctor shortage.

That was averted at the last minute when ER doctors agreed to temporarily work extra shifts — but only for a couple of weeks. The health region still needed to work out coverage for the holiday season.

"Obviously it's good news that they'll be able to keep it open," said Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan.

"December traditionally is the hardest month to fill all the shifts and ... this bodes quite well for the region going forward. While they don't have all the shifts filled yet for January, that's where they're now going to turn their attention to start filling those shifts."

The overnight closure would have left only the Regina General Hospital ER open around the clock, seven days a week.

The health region has said that despite efforts to recruit doctors, staffing levels are still one-third below what is needed for the city's emergency departments.

Duncan said a new contract with higher salaries for emergency room doctors should help recruit more physicians. He also said there are four physician residents in Regina who are to wrap up their training in June and he hopes they will stay in the city's ERs.