541 waiting for hospital beds as nurses' union calls for emergency measures
Some 541 sick or injured people are lying on trolleys in hospital emergency units, in corridors and on wards as the overcrowding crisis deepened.
Th e Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the issue of patients queuing for beds is worsening as 180 acute beds are closed primarily because jobs cannot be filled.
The union called for a series of emergency measures to combat the problem, including the widespread cancellation of planned admissions and elective operations to clear the backlog of patients.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said: "Today's figures in the context of the bed closures and the comparison with this time last year must be viewed by everyone as totally unacceptable and requiring emergency action."
Mr Doran said the union's emergency response plans must be implemented immediately.
The current trolley wait crisis is short of figures that prompted former health minister Mary Harney to declare a national crisis when more than 600 people were recorded waiting for a bed in one day in 2006.
That breaking point was reached again in 2011 and in early 2015.
And as the situation reached crisis levels last winter, nurses called off threatened strike action after the Government gave them new assurances on escalating the responses to overcrowding.
The latest INMO trolley watch report found Cork University and University Hospital Galway were the worst-affected with 48 patients on trolleys, including eight people waiting for a bed in wards in the Cork facility and 16 in the Galway facility.
Others among the most overcrowded were University Hospital Waterford with 36 people on trolleys, 34 in St Vincent's University Hospital, University Hospital Waterford with 33 and South Tipperary General Hospital, where 32 were on trolleys.
The INMO called for an emergency nurse staffing initiative to address the critical issue as it said there were 140 staff nurse vacancies in emergency departments and 60 of these positions are being filled by agencies.
The union accused health service management of not implementing recommendations of the emergency department expert group, which were published in August last year and called for additional staff to care specifically for admitted patients in A&E.
It also called for changes to rosters to put more senior clinical decision-makers on duty for longer.
The result of a new ballot of nurses and midwives for industrial action over the overcrowding and staff shortages is due on Thursday.