Hospital overcrowding reached record levels for the month of July this year, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
Since the start of the month, 9,439 patients were left on trolleys at hospitals nationwide, 33 per cent more than the same period last year.
The HSE says it regrets that any patient should have to wait for admission from emergency departments to a hospital ward.
INMO Director of Industrial Relations, Tony Fitzpatrick, says the reality of the overcrowding crisis is lost on many people.
"The level of overcrowding, people are nearly desensitised to the level of crisis that exists," he said.
"It really needs to be tackled head-on.
"We need a plan now for the winter because if we have this level of overcrowding in July, we're heading into the worst winter on record with regards to overcrowding."