A Cape Breton doctor says she’s concerned about the number of emergency room closures, claiming the temporary shutdowns at smaller hospitals will become more permanent.

Dr. Margaret Fraser says the Glace Bay General Hospital will be closed for nine days in May and there will be no overnight service for the month. She says it’s the result of a lack of staffing, with only 22 shifts being covered out of a possible 62.

“Until we can hire four or five to work in the emergency departments, we will not have the manpower to man those departments,” Dr. Fraser says.

“The money has been budgeted for them to stay open for now, but without people to fill those positions, the money is pointless.”

The same can be said for the Northside General Hospital, which will be closed for half of May, according to Fraser.

Local residents say public health may be at risk due to the closures. 

“It's terrible. Everybody deserves the same, not bigger areas or smaller areas. The smaller areas deserve just as much as anyone else,” says resident Colin MacDonald.

“To go to the emergency room, you might as well take a lunch because you're going to be there for a while,” says resident David MacPhail. 

Concerns were raised during question period Tuesday by the area's MLAs, who said ER doctors at both Glace Bay and North Sydney hospitals are paid less than their colleagues at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

“We continue to work diligently to ensure we have the proper staffing in place to serve the communities. When that's not possible, there are times when those hospitals will have to close. We try to give as much warning as possible,” Health Minister Randy Delorey said Tueday.  

Dr. Fraser says ER closures will cause an influx of patients coming to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital – something they're simply not staffed for.

“This department was never intended to manage the volumes it's currently managing,” she says. “It certainly isn't designed to manage an extra hundred patients a day."

According to a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, there has not been a decision made to change the operating hours at either facility. They say they're still looking at options and making plans for summer coverage.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.