Health Minister Leo Varadkar said today that the cancellation of operations is proof that measures to tackle hospital overcrowding are working.
At least 30 non-urgent elective surgeries in Cork University Hospital have been cancelled.
In Dublin, the Mater and Beaumont hospitals have asked people to avoid their Emergency Departments (EDs) if possible.
Consultant at the hospital, Michael O'Keefe, said the system is dysfunctional.
“[This is] the first time I’ve seen where there’s almost a complete shutdown in the elective and in the routine day-to-day running of the hospital,
“I’ve an email here that says, and this is dated the 19th, which is Tuesday: ‘Please not the ED is extremely overcrowded with 87 patients currently in the department and the prospects of cancelling surgical elective admissions…’, so 87 patients.
“I mean, this must be an absolute record.”
At least 492 people are on trolleys in EDs and wards today - but St Vincent's hospital in Dublin is not included in the total.
Minister Leo Varadkar said that everything that can be done is being done to tackle the overcrowding.
“Part of that escalation protocol is that we cancel non-urgent elective surgeries when there is overcrowding, so that is an example of the escalation framework working,” he said.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s better than having very large numbers or even higher numbers on trolleys.
“Unprecedented efforts have been made this year to ease overcrowding.
“There are about another 400 or 500 beds in the system, another 100 to open quite soon.”
And as the flu season has yet to peak, there are fears the number of people attending hospital may rise further.
“Unfortunately, no matter what measures you do, if there are more people coming in the door than you can get out the back door, you’re going to face overcrowding,” said Minister Varadkar.
“But it does demonstrate the fact that really what’s required to resolve this problem is going to be sustained investment over a number of years.”
A woman in her 70s who attended Mater hospital Emergency Department yesterday says she was told that they were too busy to carry out an ultrasound on her.
"They said that there's no infection and there's nothing they can do at the minute," she said
"I have to have an ultrasound and they can't do that at the minute - they're too busy, they can't do that in A&E, they tried.
"I'm just sore and in pain - I'll be 78 in March."