Nurses have called for emergency Government intervention in the health service to deal with the "unprecedented" pressure it is under.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), "the system is overloaded and staff cannot cope".
"Decisions at every level are happening too late to prevent infection and overburden. The consequences are increasingly clear - our frontline members are paying the price," commented INMO president, Karen McGowan.
The organisation has called for a number of measures to deal with the current crisis. These are:
-Increased safety standards, including an end to the policy of allowing asymptomatic close contacts to return to work
-Private hospital capacity to be fully nationalised into the public system. Current Government plans are to use one-third of private hospital capacity
-The provision of childcare to health workers, such as the partial reopening of schools for the families of healthcare staff
-The continued prioritisation of healthcare workers when it comes to vaccination
-Protections and pay for nursing and midwifery students and interns who are on no, or unacceptably low pay, often without necessary employment rights.
According to INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, this is a "national emergency and it should be treated as such".
"The public health service was not fit for purpose before the pandemic and it is now under a level of pressure not seen before. We are at the point where staff are not able to cope. There are huge numbers of very sick patients, with 7,000 HSE staff now out for COVID reasons. Over 2,500 healthcare workers a week are getting the virus," she said.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.