Enda Kenny wants health service 'fit for 21st century'
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said his greatest regret is hearing of individual heartbreaking cases in the health service.
He called for a 21st century service and an end to haphazard investment but said the number facing trolley waits because of hospital overcrowding had reduced.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said the problem has worsened with a 4% increase in trolley waits in November compared to last year.
New measures were introduced to tackle overcrowding in hospital emergency departments over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
Mr Kenny said: "Well, I don't like to have distressing stories in regard to health issues that arise occasionally. I find that difficult I have to say.
"That's why Minister (Leo) Varadkar is tackling this in a really vigorous way now and I hope we can continue the progress that will lead us to having a universal healthcare system that will provide service for a population that is ageing, and that will require a lot of attention over the next 15 years."
He said an extra 800 million euro had been pledged to the health service but acknowledged challenges.
"The numbers have fallen now in terms of trolley waiting lists... we'd like to see that continue to reduce so that you have the minimum number applying. It's always stressful for families when these things happen."
He added: "We need an infrastructure investment capacity both in terms of the personnel, doctors, nurses and so on but also the infrastructure.
"Much of it is haphazard, has grown up over the years in bits and pieces and much of it needs to be changed and reinvested to make it fit for 21st century service."
The INMO had threatened strike action in December in response to "record" levels of overcrowding and in an attempt to protect patients and staff. The protest at seven emergency departments was deferred.
New steps were announced by the Emergency Department Implementation Group before Christmas, supporting hospital groups and community health organisations in developing plans to manage capacity during periods of high demand.
The objective was that no patient should have to wait more than nine hours from entering hospital to admission or discharge.