SOUTHDoc issued an urgent appeal to GPs tonight to provide emergency cover as an ongoing visa issue left its Cork services understaffed.
City GPs received a text alert tonight asking for anyone available to report to duty after an agency was unable to fill clinics with contracted doctors.
While local GPs take shifts at SouthDoc clinics on a rotational basis, night shifts are filled by contracted GPs through agencies.
Many of these doctors come from overseas but can only work in Ireland for 90 days at a time before having to leave the country for 60 days as they reapply for a visa.
According to Lord Mayor John Sheehan, a GP who still works with SouthDoc, other countries are now competing for these doctors and offering them more steady work.
"There's a shortage of doctors in the UK and other countries, so they are being recruited there too," he said.
"Many doctors will go back to their home countries in places like South Africa for a week or two, but they don't want to be kicking their heels for two months waiting to get approval to come back to Ireland.
"And it's not feasible to expect local doctors to work overnight and then go to their own practice in the morning.
"Nobody thinks that be safe or appropriate," he said.
He said that agencies have engaged with the Department of Justice to try and secure a streamlined visa system for doctors.