Patients in one rural Northland town have to wait at least a month for appointments or travel more than 45 minutes to Whangārei, thanks to “a perfect storm” of doctor shortages. The Dargaville Medical Centre has temporarily stopped its Sunday GP, urgent and emergency care services for its 12,000 patients. Dargaville patients who fall ill or have an accident on a Sunday either have to wait a day to be seen, travel 58km to Whangārei’s White Cross or call an ambulance on 111. Dargaville GP Dr Neil Hopkins says the measure is temporary, to ensure GPs do not burn out while the centre tries to recruit more staff. The centre’s 12 full-time doctors have dropped to about four and patients face a wait of four to six weeks, for a booked appointment.