Almost half of doctors' surgeries nationwide are turning away new patients due to capacity issues, a new survey has found.
A survey of 336 GP practices over the past month found that 148 (44%) are operating at full capacity.
The survey, by the Sunday Independent, found that rural areas in the southwest and Dublin commuter belt counties are the worst affected.
The problem was particularly evident in Co Laois, where no surgeries were found to have space for new patients.
80% of those in Carlow and Longford were also found to be at full capacity.
In Kilkenny, 75% said they were full, with the rest stating an assessment of new patients was needed before a decision was made.
Other counties that ranked high on the list included Tipperary at 54% max capacity, Kerry at 53% and Limerick at 52%.
In Cork, 38% of practices were reported to be at full capacity.
Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation has called for the government to address in Budget 2020 the crisis in recruiting and retaining doctors.
The organisation, which will publish its pre-Budget submission tomorrow, says 520 consultant posts are unfilled or on temporary basis nationwide.
They warn that Ireland has the lowest number of per capita medical specialists in the EU and that there is consultant shortfall of up to 72% in key areas.
According to the IMO, 25% of GPs and 50% of public health specialists are due to retire in the next five years.
Dr Padraig McGarry, President of the IMO, said that the government could no longer afford to delay its response to the current shortages.
“The government has utterly failed in its duty to provide the people of Ireland with a properly resourced health system and needs to act urgently before further damage is done," he said.
"Sub-standard working conditions in understaffed hospitals are having a terrible impact on patient care and unconscionable pay inequality means doctors are emigrating in their thousands to countries that actually value the skills they provide.
"The situation as it currently stands is lamentable and will steadily get worse if this government does not deal with the problem and make our health services somewhere that doctors want to practice medicine.
"Time and again, we have heard empty promises from a Government that cannot grasp the scale of the emergency we are facing – this needs to change," he said.