Doctors say a critical shortage of anesthesiologists is keeping some operating rooms at the four-year-old Abbotsford Regional Hospital empty.

Dr. Curt Smecher told CTV News the situation has left elective surgery patients lingering on waiting lists because their operations aren’t even being scheduled.

“I’m probably missing 12, 13 operations every day that the public is largely paying for but not receiving,” Smecher said.

The Fraser Health Authority agreed the problem is due to a lack of anesthesiologists, but said it’s looking to utilize the unused rooms for other procedures.

Smecher said the hospital has been seeking to hire new anesthesiologists, but the candidates so far have not met his standards.

“The best they could find me was actually two candidates who had failed their Canadian exams,” he said.

A Fraser Health email from June leaked to CTV News discuses hiring someone trained in the U.S. to work in Abbotsford.

“She failed her Canadian exams… so will work with a provisional license and needs a supervisor,” it read. “Given the desparate [sic] situation I think we should go with her to start.”

Smecher said the candidates ultimately were not hired.

Last month, Peace Arch Hospital was forced to temporarily send certain patients – including women in labour – to other hospitals on certain nights due to their own anesthesiologist shortage.

B.C.’s health minister was not available for a comment Wednesday, but the ministry said it stands by data from the Canadian Institute of Health Information that said the province has a good supply of anesthesiologists and compensates them fairly.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Maria Weisgarber