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A shortage of physicians has led to an 12.5-hour overnight shut down of the emergency department of the Pasqua Hospital in Regina for at least three months, starting Nov. 28, officials say.

The shut down will start at 7:30 p.m. and the ER will resume accepting patients at 8 a.m.

During those hours, anyone with emergency medical needs will be sent to the General Hospital, about four kilometres east of the Pasqua.

'You cannot ... under-provide in a trauma centre.' - RQHR Vice-President Dr. David McCutcheon

"Despite the best efforts of our management, physicians and staff, this reduction in services has become necessary in order to ensure that we can continue to provide safe, quality care to our patients," Dr. David McCutcheon, a vice-president for the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region, said in a news release Thursday. "We regret the inconvenience to patients, and are making every effort possible to limit the duration of this service disruption."

McCutcheon said it is easier to divert patients to one emergency room, rather than operate two with fewer staff.

"You cannot ... under-provide in a trauma centre," McCutcheon said. "You end up affecting both groups of patients."

Officials said that anyone who shows up at the closed Pasqua Hospital Emergency Department throughout the night will be redirected to the Regina General Hospital Emergency Department. If they are "experiencing a serious emergency on arrival at Pasqua" they would be given EMS treatment and transported to the General by ambulance.

The shortage of ER doctors in the region has been a looming problem for several months.

Officials said they tried "aggressive" recruitment efforts, but the situation did not improve noting that staffing levels have been one-third below what is needed to fully staff both ERs.

McCutcheon said a number of factors are at play in recruiting and keeping doctors.

"Things like employment for the spouse of the doctor," he said. "They include issues such as climate. They include issues such as remuneration et cetera."

Current physicians have been working extra shifts to address the shortfall.