Patients will have to go to the ER in Montague at the start of the week. (CBC)

The departure of a Souris doctor has forced Health P.E.I. to reduce walk-in clinic hours in the community.

The organization said there is not enough staff to run the Eastern Kings Health Centre clinic seven days a week so now, it is now closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Souris lost a doctor in July when David Morgan decided to leave the Island. Health P.E.I. had told him, and other contract doctors, that he would have to stop working as a contract doctor and take on a salary or fee-for-service position.

Health P.E.I. later changed its mind, but Morgan had already decided to leave.

That leaves two full-time doctors and one filling in for the next three weeks.

'Strain' for the centre

Marilyn Barrett of Health P.E.I. said that's not enough to staff the clinic all week.

"Obviously it is a strain for the health centre staff and physicians, but we try to strike a balance that makes it workable for everyone," she said. "They can try the clinic and see if there's any appointments available with the nurse practitioner or the other physicians. And you know, if not, is it something that can wait?"

Health P.E.I. said anyone in need of urgent care Monday through Wednesday should go to an emergency room.

Souris does not have an ER. The closest one is 45 kilometres away in Montague.

Patient Christina Whyatt said the reduced hours are a problem. She has been without a family doctor since Morgan left.

"I guess you just have to get sick in those four days. If you get sick on the odd days, what takes place? Who takes care of you?" she asked.

"The neighbours can't take you, the neighbours are working. Who do you depend on? It costs a lot to take an ambulance."  

Health P.E.I. said its main priority is finding temporary doctors to work in Souris until it can fill the void with two permanent doctors.