MONTREAL -- Another hospital in Quebec is being told to close its emergency room for 16 hours per day -- a decision the president of the council of physicians is describing as dangerous.

In an open letter to the Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, Dr. Paul Saba criticized the government's decision to limit the hours of the ER at the Lachine Hospital from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next morning each day as of Nov. 8. By that date, the hospital's ICU will also close "completely."

"These decisions will put the lives of many people in danger. We must provide not less, but more care. You cannot tell a patient with a heart attack that it is too late because it is 4:15 p.m.," wrote Saba in the letter. 

The ministry of health told CTV News the closures are due to a "significant" shortage of nurses and respiratory therapists at the McGill University Health Centre, "which threatens their ability to maintain emergency services at the Lachine Hospital."

"The institution and the [ministry of health] are currently working to find a solution."

Both departments are operating at full capacity and the hospital has reduced the number of beds to a "critical mass," according to Saba, who said shuffling patients to another hospital to receive care will also be a dangerous move. 

"I respectfully invite you to reconsider your decision," Saba concluded in his letter. 

“It's a serious problem, because we're looking at almost total closure of the emergency room. Because if you're only open from 8 a.m. until 3 o'clock, and you're closed 17 hours – the rest of the day – this is not an emergency room; this becomes a clinic, a walk-in clinic. This is totally unacceptable. We have critically ill patients that come here every day,” said Saba in an interview.

Last week, the Senneterre Hospital, in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, also raised alarm bells at the decision to close its emergency room from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. as of Monday. 

Outside of these hours, patients will have to go to Val-d'Or, to the southwest, or to Amos, to the northwest -- about 70 kilometres away. 

Dubé said he supported the decision and said that the reduction of service hours in Senneterre was a temporary solution, while 250 nurses were recruited in the region.