DOCTORS in parts of Dublin are struggling with almost twice the number of patients than the national average, the Herald can reveal.
Alarm has been expressed by public representatives in south Dublin after the HSE admitted just 24 GPs serve the entire Tallaght area -- which has a population of 71,000 people.
This means there is a GP for every 2,958 people -- compared to the average nationwide of one per 1,672 people.
The strain on GPs is also evident in other parts of the city, with Swords recording a figure of 2,692 people per GP.
The figures in parts of the capital are drastically different to those recorded in the west of Ireland.
Limerick city -- which has a population of 71,000 -- has 58 GPs, giving it a ratio of one GP per 1,569 people. And in Galway, there is a GP for every 1,698 people -- putting both cities in line with the national average.
The Irish Patients' Association (IPA) has today claimed the GP shortage in the likes of Tallaght is putting patients' lives at risk.
"Easy access to a GP is absolutely imperative for the safety of patients. This clearly is not the case in Tallaght and we would call on the HSE to come clean on the situation in all parts of the country also," IPA chief executive Stephen McMahon told the Herald.
"Early diagnosis is key in almost all illnesses and with areas under tremendous pressure, patients are no doubt at risk.
"The HSE needs to explain why it is not supplying and facilitating calls for extra family doctors."
Local Tallaght councillor Mick Murphy said there was great concern among families at the shortage of GPs.
"What's ludicrous is that Chambers House -- which is supposed to be opened by the HSE as a GP service in Tallaght -- shows no sign of opening any time soon despite the endless promises.
"And what's worse, even if it did open, they expect it to be staffed by the existing GPs in Tallaght.
"Families are extremely concerned that they will not be able to get the care they need if/when emergency occurs; this is nothing short of a crisis for the area."
A spokesperson for the HSE could not comment when contacted by the Herald.