Overcrowding cannot be tolerated in Irish hospitals this winter, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
The union said 395 patients were being treated on trolleys in Ireland’s hospitals yesterday – the highest figure since the pandemic began.
Cork University Hospital was hardest hit with 50 patients waiting for a bed, with Limerick and Galway University Hospitals in second and third place.
In a statement, the INMO said hospitals run the risk of becoming “infection hotspots” this winter due to a mixture of poor ventilation and overcrowding.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha told Newstalk that the annual overcrowding crisis cannot happen this year.
“Overcrowding at any time is really, really bad,” she said.
“It is bad for patients, it is bad for staff, it is bad for longer-term issues such as retention of staff and it cases a worsening of outcomes for patients.
“It is never good, but it is really bad during a pandemic and going into the winter months when we traditionally have had excessive overcrowding, we are just saying it simply cannot be tolerated.”
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said ventilation in hospitals will be key to stopping the spread of the virus and called on the HSE to carry out full audits of the ventilation in every one of the country’s healthcare centres.
She said the HSE is still recording new COVID infections among healthcare workers despite the highest level of vaccination in the sector.
“We have nurses and midwives who are exhausted and who themselves have suffered with COVID-19 when the pandemic commenced and we didn’t have vaccines - and many have long-COVID unfortunately and haven’t recovered - but we still see infections today of healthcare workers,” she said.
“We have to make sure the environment they work is a safe environment. That is a legal obligation on the HSE as an employer.”
The previous post-pandemic overcrowding high was the 385 patients being treated on trolleys on August 10th.