The Health Minister says the Government is already putting together a winter plan for the health service, saying they can't wait until October or November as usual.
Officials have voiced concern about a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the winter, with fears it could put extra pressure on hospitals already dealing with the annual flu season and seasonal issues.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Minister Stephen Donnelly has acknowledged they need to start planning now.
He said hospitals are going to need to be able to handle a second wave.
The Fianna Fáil minister said the 'real number of people who need care' in hospitals generally is even higher than official waiting list figures, as there are people yet to be diagnosed due to delays with screenings and referrals.
He said: "We are not leaving it until October or November to put winter plans together.
"We're working closely with the HSE to put together a comprehensive plan to bring in everything we've learned from COVID... to deal with this coming winter and deal with these waiting lists, which are obviously not sustainable.
"We would typically see the winter planning start sometime after the Budget... with a view to deploying measures in late November, December and January. That planning is going on right now."
Minister Donnelly insisted that this year's winter plan won't be a 'small project'.
He explained: "Last year the additional funds secured for the winter plan were €55 million.
"We are putting a much more comprehensive package together which deals with the winter plan but also deals with resumption of services due to these enormous waiting lists."