Over 1,700 patients were left waiting on trolleys during the first three days of this week, figures have shown.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation's (INMO) ‘Trolley/Ward Watch' figures, 1,718 patients were waiting on trolleys in Emergency Departments (EDs) and overcrowded wards between Monday and Wednesday of this week.
This marks a 46% increase when compared to the same three days last year.
On Monday (April 9), 532 patients were on trolleys. This increased to 591 on Tuesday and then 595 on Wednesday.
The most overcrowded hospitals over the three days were Cork University Hospital (159 on trolleys), University Hospital Limerick (135) and University Hospital Galway (125).
According to INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, the figures ‘confirm that hospitals cannot cope'.
"The system is unable to manage patient flow and the burden is falling on nursing and medical staff who are forced to work in intolerable conditions. Staff are constantly apologising to patients for the inhumane conditions in which they are forced to care for them and they cannot see any reprieve as we leave the winter period. We are now in the second week of April and the figures are getting higher," she commented.
She said that the Government must recognise that the health service is in crisis and needs ‘immediate emergency intervention'.
"These numbers are the equivalent of three whole hospitals of patients for whom there are no beds. This is a national emergency inflicting indignity and unnecessary suffering on patients and subjecting nursing, medical and other staff to extraordinary health and safety risks," Ms Ni Sheaghdha added.