Residents of Brooks are urging the province to reopen their birthing unit, which has been closed for nearly six months due to a doctor shortage.

Expectant mothers in the southern Alberta city can still get prenatal care, but have to travel to Medicine Hat or Calgary to deliver their babies.

Community members say they were assured the move was temporary until more doctors were found, but nearly half a year later there is still no sign the unit in the 40-bed hospital will reopen.

Alberta patient advocate Rick Lundy said women should not have to risk their lives on the road to the hospital.

"If this isn't fixed, it's just a matter of time before we have a serious incident," he said.

Grant Walker, a vice-president with Alberta Health Services, said the provincial health authority put "tremendous effort" into resuming deliveries at the Brooks hospital.

"It was physicians that removed the services from the community based on lack of C-section backup," Walker said. "So we are actively recruiting physicians with that skill set, [that] capability, to provide the necessary backup."

Doctors at the hospital can still deliver babies in emergencies, he said.

Baby born on side of the road

New mother Michelle Mack was in an ambulance en route to Medicine Hat seven weeks ago when she gave birth to her daughter.

"On the side of the road, in the back of the ambulance. It's a story, but thankfully it's a happy ending," she said.

Mack said other families might not be so lucky, so she has joined the fight to reopen the unit, becoming one of more than 650 members of a Facebook group called Friends of Maternity Services in Brooks pushing for Alberta to find new doctors.

"It's table conversation when you find out you're expecting. It's 'What are you going to do? Where have you decided to deliver?'" she said. "Obviously in my case you just can't plan."

Brooks is a community of about 13,500 that is 190 kilometres southeast of Calgary.