Update 11.15am: The HSE has published its plan for tackling hospital overcrowding this winter.
Nine winter action teams have been established and will focus on delivering appropriate care to patients during the winter months. While last year the HSE focused on nine key hospital sites, this year’s plan is extended to cover the entire country.
"We are focused this winter on ensuring that patients are provided with the appropriate care to meet their needs as quickly as possible," said Anne O Connor, HSE Chief Operations Officer.
"Building on the lessons learned from last winter, we will have a number of initiatives with a particular focus on the timely discharge of patients from hospital to appropriate care in the community including home care, step-down/transitional care or long term care.
"All our Hospital Groups and Community Health Organisations have joint Winter Plans in place to prepare for and to manage service pressures in their areas this winter, which we have been planning for since July."
By the end of October, 1.1m patients attended the HSE's 29 Emergency Departments. This was a 3% increase on the same time last year. Almost 292,000 were patients admitted to hospital for further treatment and care.
Update 10.39am: The HSE will set out its plan today for tackling hospital overcrowding this winter.
Extra beds and more homecare packages to make sure people can be discharged faster from hospitals are expected to be among the measures announced this morning.
The number of people on hospital trolleys reached 679 on one day last week - the second highest so far this year.
Today, 571 patients are waiting for beds, according to the INMO, with the worst-affected hospitals being University Hospital Limerick (62), University Hospital Galway (44) and Cork University Hospital (38).
The Health Minister has accepted the numbers waiting for a bed has been far too high recently.
€26m has already been allocated to the HSE for its winter plan to address what should be a busy few months.
The president of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine (IAEM) Emily O’Connor has warned that the health service is already stretched going into the winter and that the HSE’s winter plan will not work without extra staff.
“There needs to be more people and more flexibility,” she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.
The emergency medicine consultant said that if there was the political will to prioritise the health service “they could make this happen.”
Dr O’Connor also warned “this could be a very bad winter” and that the numbers on trolleys could reach between 700 and 800.
There is an increase in the numbers of people attending at Accident and Emergency departments, she added, because they could not get an appointment with a GP or the only way they could access the health system was via A&E.
She admitted that very often staff will admit a patient as it could be the only way they get to see a consultant because of the length of waiting lists.
“There needs to be enough of us to deliver a service seven days a week.”
Younger doctors can be reluctant to work in the Irish health service because they want “a livable life” and not have to keep performing heroics, she said.
Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke