Twice as many patients are languishing on hospital trolleys since a decade ago when the crisis was declared a national emergency.
Latest figures show 6,751 patients in emergency departments around the country were forced to wait on trolleys for a proper bed last month.
It is the highest figure on record for July and almost double the 3,460 on trolleys a decade ago in 2006.
That year, then health minister Mary Harney admitted the waiting times were a "national emergency".
Separately, figures reveal another record 528,144 patients waiting for treatment or checks at the end of last month.
Health Minister Simon Harris said he has ordered hospitals to draw up action plans as to what can be done to cut waiting times by the end of the year.
"By the end of this year I want to see a 50% reduction in the number of patients waiting more than 18 months for in patient procedures, that's about 7,500 people," he said.
"We've got to start with the people waiting the longest."
Mr Harris also said €15m has been handed over to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
The body was set up to buy in private medical treatment for those forced to wait on public waiting lists, but was wound down under former Fine Gael health minister James Reilly five years ago.
"I've met the NTPF, I've told them to gear up, to be ready, I've told them to come back to me with proposals and I've given them a ring-fenced one million euro to get on and do 3,000 endoscopy procedures," Mr Harris said.
But Liam Doran, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said more staff and beds are needed to deal with the crisis.
"That's the core issue, not more layers of management overseeing what other layers of management should be doing," he said.
Official figures also confirm almost 3,500 less nurses in the public health system compared to seven years ago, Mr Doran said.
"The INMO has consistently said emergency department overcrowding and waiting lists difficulties cannot, and will not, be solved without additional nursing staff and an increase in bed capacity," he added.