Update 6.43pm: Health Minister Simon Harris has cancelled his St Patrick's Day trip to Europe to concentrate on tackling the hospital overcrowding crisis.
Mr Harris was due to fly to the Netherlands and Belgium for the annual celebrations.
However, on Tuesday he said it did not "feel right" to travel while those in the health service worked to try and deal with the overcrowding problem.
People across the health service are working extraordinarily hard to make progress in what is a difficult week. I am in regular contact with HSE. It would not feel right to me as Minister to travel for St Patrick’s Day so I have made decision not to do so— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) March 13, 2018
In a tweet he said: "People across the health service are working extraordinarily hard to make progress in what is a difficult week.
"I am in regular contact with HSE. It would not feel right to me as Minister to travel for St Patrick's Day so I have made decision not to do so".
Earlier in the day Independent TD Mattie McGrath had called on the Minister to reconsider his trip.
"I think it is grossly irresponsible for Minister Harris to be out of the country at a time when almost every major local and regional hospital is in the grip of capacity crisis with respect to patients on trolleys," said Mr McGrath.
On Monday overcrowding in hospitals across the county reached new record levels with 714 people waiting on trolleys.
The figure remained high on Tuesday with 649 patients waiting on trolleys in hospitals across the country, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
Update 5.59pm: Numbers on hospital trolleys fall following extra €5million for the HSE
Trolley numbers have eased slightly today after a record high of 714 yesterday.
However, health experts are warning that the three short weeks around St Patrick’s Day and Easter could compound the situation.
President of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine Emily O’Connor says increasing bed capacity in the short-term is essential.
“If we want this to be significantly improved by next winter, we need the government now to actually put extra beds into the system,” said Ms O’Connor.
“Be they in modular units, be they prefabricated builds, that needs to be started now.
“Once we have a commitment to let’s say 500 or 1,000 beds being produced now, then we can start incentivised recruitment drives to get doctors and nurses to work in these units.”
Original story 4.57pm: The number of patients on trolleys has fallen again this afternoon, according to figures from the HSE.
It says there were 343 patients on trolleys as of 2pm, including 18 children who were waiting on a bed.
The HSE was given an extra €5million yesterday to spend on home care packages to help speed up the discharge of older patients.
Michael Harty from Homecare Direct says the sector has too few staff, a problem the Government needs to help tackle in time for next winter.
“We need to ensure that homecare can play a bigger role in the healthcare continuum so that this time next year, when we’ll inevitably have another crisis and there’s funding put into it, the capacity is there to react to that and move those people out of hospital,” said Mr Harty.
- Digital desk