The Irish Medical Organisation says annual leave is not the reason why Irish hospitals are overcrowded.
Representatives from the medical profession have been reacting to a suggestion from the Taoiseach that holidays for some staff should not be allowed over the Christmas break to make sure every hospital bed is kept open.
The IMO says overcrowding is not caused by staff holidays but down to capacity and resources.
The war of words comes as the country's Emergency Departments get ready for a busy winter.
Mr Varadkar suggested drastic measures were needed as the HSE’s winter plan “does not work”.
“We need to make sure, for the first time ever, that during that period the radiology departments and labs are open and working at full whack, that consultants are not on holidays in the first week of the year, particularly those who work in the emergency departments and that nurses are not on leave in the first two weeks of January," he said yesterday.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has not ruled out taking strike action over the festive season if its 40,000 members vote in favour of doing so.
The President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland also said the challenges faced by Irish hospitals won't be fixed by simply not allowing people to take time off.
Kenneth Mealy said that many hospitals do not have the resources to keep hospital beds open during the Christmas break.
Labour's Health spokesperson Alan Kelly said today that the Taoiseach's comments were "completely out of touch".
"The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health are showing a lack of leadership by refusing to present a winter initiative plan to workers in our health service," he said.
"The comments by the Taoiseach come in the backdrop as nurses in the INMO prepare to ballot to take industrial action over their pay. Taoiseach Varadkar’s inexperience is coming to the fore yet again making naive comments like this.
“The Taoiseach needs to reflect on his comments and figure out how his Government is going to sort out the issues of nurses’ pay and conditions,” he said.