Junior doctor training at a north hospital has been suspended amid fears over patient safety.
NHS Highland has imposed the ban because there are not enough consultants to supervise them.
Health chiefs have now been forced to draft in more temporary staff to plug the gaps left at Caithness General in Wick.
And the move was announced as it emerged there has also been a £2.8million overspend at the north’s flagship hospital – Raigmore in Inverness – in the first three months of the financial year.
Underspends in other areas have partially compensated, but NHS Highland’s 2015-16 budget is already £2million in the red.
Last night, there were calls for the Scottish Government to “get a grip” of the recruitment issue plaguing the health board.
The decision to suspend junior doctor training at Caithness General was triggered by the departure of a long-term locum consultant physician.
Their resignation left inadequate supervision of the young medics.
The situation has again highlighted the problems NHS Highland has in hiring senior medical staff.
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said she feared the lack of junior doctor training could have a knock-on effect in future.
She said: “Junior doctors need to train in different parts of Scotland so that they can get a feel for where they wish to work in the future.
“More and more we are seeing recruitment is a problem throughout the country.
“We need to ensure there are adequate numbers in training and that positions being offered are attractive enough for those with skills and knowledge needed.
“The Scottish Government has to get a grip of this.”
But Health Secretary Shona Robison said it was the responsibility of NHS boards to ensure they had the correct staffing levels in place to deliver safe and effective patient care, and a safe training environment for junior doctors.
She added: “It is crucial that they do so in a sustainable way, ensuring that cover is in place for staff sickness or vacancies.
“The overriding consideration for the Scottish Government is to ensure patients receive the highest quality of care from skilled and competent practitioners – ensuring patient safety at all times.
“We will continue to liaise with NHS Highland as it works to implement a new service model that can ensure continuity of supervision for all of its medical trainees.”
She said NHS staffing levels across Scotland were the highest ever, with record numbers of consultants.
The junior doctors had been due to start work at Caithness General on Tuesday but were redeployed to hospitals in other part of the Highlands and Grampian.
Training will not restart at the Wick hospital until there is the correct level of supervision.
An NHS Highland spokesman said patient safety was a top priority.
He said: “The loss of four members of junior medical staff has caused some disruption this week but we have been able to secure sufficient locum cover to continue the normal working of the hospital.
“No operations, procedures or elective work have been cancelled.
“This situation is a progression of the problem that we have felt for a number of years in medical staffing.
“With seven consultant vacancies, despite our best efforts to recruit, we require to work with locums to provide essential services to this community.”
He added: “We are exploring innovative solutions such as rotational posts from Raigmore, the creation of a tier of generalist doctors, enhancing the skills of nursing and paramedic staff alongside continuing in our recruitment efforts.”
In a report to the next week’s meeting of the NHS Highland board, finance director Nick Kenton says there are a number of “hard to fill” posts, where vacancies exist for an extended period of time.
These positions are often filled by locums, at great expense.