At least 4,000 people in West Cork are without regular after-hours GP cover after a doctor retired and returned to his native South Africa two weeks ago.
Dr Ernest EJ Cranna, who saved the life of an unborn twin in 2008 during an obstetric emergency, came to Ireland in 2006 to retrace his ancestral roots after retiring from his busy Cape Town practice.
He decided to stay and had worked as a locum in Bantry and Castletownbere SouthDoc ever since.
However, he retired recently and returned to South Africa, leaving the town without a full after-hours service.
“My understanding is the health service was told he was going to retire some time ago," said Independent TD Michael Collins.
Castletownbere GP Fiona Kelly is one of two full-time GPs who cover SouthDoc Mondays and Tuesdays.
The other is Dr Jacqueline Glisson, and there is also a semi-retired GP who works part-time with Dr Kelly.
But until October 26, when a new GP is to arrive in the town, nobody is regularly in the area for SouthDoc between 6pm and 8am on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Cover for the weekend shift from 6pm Friday to 8am Monday is also uncertain.
While someone is due to start on Friday evening, there is growing concern about the lack of cover.
Although some GPs from Bantry are helping out, the best most of them can do, in addition to their existing workload, is phone consultations.
The HSE is understood to be engaging with SouthDoc to find a solution to the problem.