The emergency room at the hospital in Alexandria, Ont. will be closed overnights for the next two-and-a-half weeks due to a shortage of nurses.

The Glengarry Memorial Hospital says it made the "difficult decision" to temporarily close the emergency department from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily, starting Friday at 6 p.m.

Patients can visit the emergency department between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Ambulances and patients will be directed to either the Cornwall Community Hospital or the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital, which are both approximately 40 kilometres away from the Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria.

"Ontario is experiencing a sustained, system-wide pressure on emergency department staffing levels due to COVID-related absences, vacations, staff fatigue and burnout. Emergency Department (ED) staffing pressures are being felt by hospitals across the country," the hospital said in a statement.

"These pressures were strongly felt over the course of the past few weeks and due to the unprecedented shortage of nurses at HGMH currently, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily partially close our Emergency Department."

The Glengarry Memorial Hospital says the current plan is to keep the emergency department closed overnights until Aug. 3.

The president of Glengarry Memorial Hospital says management looked at all options to keep the emergency department open, but were left with no other option but to close it overnights.

"We have been asking staff every day to come in and work additional shifts, to stay longer hours," President and CEO Robert Alldred-Hughes told CTV News Ottawa. "But it got to the point when we were coming into this weekend where we only had in some shifts beginning this evening between 37 and 50 per cent of the shifts filled across the organization from a nursing perspective."

Alldred-Hughes says the hospital explored bringing in other professionals to provide support and care, but it did not come to fruition.

"We, just as every other hospital in the province, are struggling with staffing, struggling with nurses coming to the hospital to work," Alldred-Hughes.

Lancaster resident Ronald Lapensee hopes the overnight closures are short-lived.

"I just hope that things get a little better down the road because it's getting scarier and scarier by the day," Lapensee said Friday.

Lapensee brought his wife to the emergency department to have her toe checked.

This is the second hospital in eastern Ontario to adjust hours in the emergency department due to staffing this summer. The Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital's emergency room in Perth has been closed since July 2, with patients redirected to the Smiths Falls hospital.

The Glengarry Memorial Hospital has more than a dozen job postings on its website for new nurses.

"When you look at a small and rural hospital, 12 vacancies is significant," Alldred-Hughes said. "This represents upwards of 30 per cent of our nursing staff and nursing positions that are vacant. So because of that, we are continuously looking at alternative options for staffing. We are recruiting all the time, actively recruiting."

New nurses are scheduled to begin in August, while other nurses will be returning from their leaves of absences.