The Health Minister has insisted "no effort or resource is being spared" to improve the overcrowding situation in hospitals.
Simon Harris took to Twitter to thank healthcare staff working in 'difficult circumstances' as figures revealed high numbers of patients waiting for a bed in hospitals across the country today.
Thanks to everyone working in health service today in difficult circumstances. Want them & our patients to know that no effort is being spared to improve this situation. This new year bed capacity plan & Slaintecare plans will help build a better future & health service we want
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) January 2, 2018
In a statement, Minister Harris explained: "We are entering a difficult few weeks and our health services are experiencing extra pressure because of the flu season.
"Traditionally these weeks are always the busiest, and when you couple that with the current strain of flu and our growing and aging population these are very busy times for our hospitals."
He added: "Despite rising demand today's HSE trolleygar figures show the lowest trolley numbers for the first Tuesday in January in 3 years. It is important to say that the figure is still very high and not acceptable, but it is a modest improvement on last year and the year before."
He stressed that health officials are taking a number of steps to deal with the current situation - including moving patients between hospitals & increasing consultant rounds.
According to data released by the Irish Nurses & Midwives Association (INMO), 656 patients were waiting on a bed earlier today - an increase on the previous record count of 612 on January 3rd last year.
HSE figures showed a smaller number of patients waiting on a bed, at 457 in acute hospitals - including 220 waiting over 9 hours.
The HSE, meanwhile, is urging high-risk groups to get the flu vaccine as the flu has started actively circulating in Ireland.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, Director of the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said: "Influenza-like illness has increased in all age groups except in those aged 0-4 years. Hospitalised cases of influenza and influenza-associated outbreaks in residential care facilities have also increased.
"The HSE has in the last fortnight also been notified of a small number of deaths directly related to influenza (less than 10)."
Generally, the flu season starts in January. However, this year the season commenced earlier in mid-December.
It comes as Minister Harris is being asked to ensure that resources are in place to deal with a possible surge in the number of people being admitted to hospital with 'Aussie flu'.