Almost 11,500 patients were left waiting on hospital trolleys last month, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said.
According to its latest ‘Trolley Watch' figures, a total of 11,452 patients were left waiting on trolleys last month, making it the worst ever October for overcrowding since records began in 2006.
The worst affected hospitals were University Hospital Limerick (1,450), Cork University Hospital (1,028) and University Hospital Galway (885).
The worst affected hospital in Dublin was the Mater (589), while the worst affected children's hospital was Temple Street Children's University Hospital (62).
Last month's figure of 11,452 represents a 26% increase on the same period last year and a 107% increase on the same period a decade ago.
The INMO has insisted that patients are now at "grave risk" and the situation will only worsen during the winter months.
It pointed out that an analysis of the latest HSE workforce figures shows that since the start of 2019, there are 308 fewer staff nurses, 87 fewer staff midwives and 37 fewer public health nurses.
Meanwhile figures produced by the INMO in August revealed that that there were over 1,300 nursing and midwifery vacancies in the public health sector as a direct result of the HSE's recruitment freeze.
"There is no doubt that this situation will worsen as winter bites, unless staffing becomes a top priority for the Government. Patients are paying the price for the HSE's ‘go slow' recruitment freeze, which leaves many posts unfilled," commented INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
She has written to the HSE to warn that its recruitment pause "is putting lives at risk".
"We need to be encouraging more nurses and midwives into our system. Instead, we are making an already bureaucratic recruitment process even more difficult. In many cases, we're slamming the door on those who want to work in our public health system," Ms Ní Sheaghdha added.
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