Hospital consultants are warning the country's public hospitals could be facing an extremely damaging crisis in the New Year which could last for months.
The Irish Hospital Consultant's Association (IHCA) says the recently announced HSE winter plan is 'too late and too limited'.
The €30m plan includes a four-week period of focused action at nine facilities that have experienced the heaviest overcrowding in the past.
The plan also seeks to increase overall bed capacity early next year – with 78 new beds due to open.
Health Minister Simon Harris Harris said the plan represents a “new and innovative approach” that builds on the experience of previous winters.
However, IHCA Secretary General Martin Varley argues that the planned funding of several dozen new hospital beds is nowhere near what is needed.
He said: "We could have 700 or more - and some are speculation up to 1,000 - patients on trolleys or waiting for beds.
"75 is only a tenth of that, so it really doesn't address what is a massive under-resourcing, lack of beds in acute hospitals."
He added: "Last week, each day we had 300 to 500 patients who were admitted to hospital, awaiting a hospital bed and being treated on trolley.
"If we had the [extra] beds last week, we would still have 200 to 400 patients on trolleys."