'One woman travels an hour-and-a-half to attend my surgery'
Dr Tadhg Crowley is now having to review on a monthly basis whether his busy GP practice is capable of taking on more business and whether it will have to close to new patients.
Dr Crowley is in an eight-doctor surgery in Kilkenny and medical director of Kilkenny's senior hurling team.
He warned there were only so many patients a GP can safely see in a day.
"You are at greater risk of making mistakes and the stress on the doctor increases," he said.
"People are surprised when you say some surgeries are also having to close to private patients.
"I had a patient contact me recently who could not be accepted by 10 GP surgeries. She is travelling an hour-and-a-half to attend me."
Dr Crowley said the problems being seen across the health system are reflected in general practice.
"Patients are getting more complicated. More have chronic disease and they take more time," he added.
He also explained that when the fees to GPs for treating medical card holders were cut during the recession, many doctors took a cut in their income to maintain their business and keep on staff.
The looming problem of hundreds of GPs retiring in the next five years was a major issue.
Kilkenny will be particularly badly hit as more than 40pc of its GPs will retire in the next five to seven years. "Our practice has a training programme for GPs, and very few of them are sticking around," Dr Cowley told the Irish Independent..
"When you look at the number of GPs coming out, it will not replace the number of ones that are retiring annually.
"Initially, people thought that it was just rural practices that were in danger of shutting.
"But I see people in urban practices under pressure. That is the greatest shock people get."