Rural emergency rooms have moved toward a system of scheduled closing times, a new report shows.

Data revealed yesterday says rural ERs were closed a total of 19,116 hours last year, with a little over 10,000 of those being unscheduled closures. Those shortages were overwhelmingly due to doctor shortages, but nursing shortages were also mentioned.

However, a large minority of closures were planned. Dr. John Ross, the man preparing a study the NDP will lean on for their future ER policies, said those could become even more common.

“There may be more scheduled (closings.) You might say ‘oh my gosh, that’s bad.’ But on the other hand scheduled means people are now aware, they’re better informed on where they can go and where they can’t go,” said Ross.

“So far it seems to have proven out over the last two years that they’re doing that quite safely.”

The problem for the NDP is that during the election they promised to completely eliminate rural ER closures.

Health Minister Maureen MacDonald wouldn’t tip her hand yesterday on what she plans to do next, saying she’s waiting for Ross’ report to be released some time this summer.

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