The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called for the first two weeks of March to be declared, and treated, as an emergency period in the Irish public health service.
The concern about the pressure on health services follows on from the past five days of severe weather conditions.
As patients scheduled for elective procedures had there appointments cancelled during Storm Emma there will be a backlog of patients as these appointments are rescheduled.
Front-line staff worked tirelessly for extended periods during the course of the storm and many had to sleep in hospitals on makeshift beds.
Rest periods will be needed for these staff members and so rosters will be re-arranged which will likely reduce available staff services in the short term, according to the INMO.
INMO records show that the number of patients waiting on trolleys for an in-patient bed in February was 19% higher than the same time last year, indicating that hospitals were already overburdened ahead of the severe weather.
According to today's INMO figures, there are currently 664 people waiting on hospital trolleys.
The @INMO_IRL has received the below picture from a member, of a staff nurse on her way to work. Once again the INMO would extend out heartfelt thanks to all those on the frontline. pictured below: ED nurse Celine O Rourke. #frontline #NursesRock #midwivesrock #BeastFromTheEast pic.twitter.com/xC4TRYw5Qg— Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (@INMO_IRL) March 2, 2018
"The next two weeks must be afforded emergency status. This means extraordinary measures should be put in place to focus on recovering from this adverse weather event, ensuring prioritisation of emergency care and this will require all non-urgent and routine cases to be cancelled during this period," said INMO General Secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
"We note and welcome the HSE statement that cancellations will be in place for all routine elective cases today, March 5. Unfortunately for the already overburdened health service this must be extended.
"In this crisis all measures to properly resource and staff the health service must be explored and the assistance of services in the private acute hospitals must also be sought.
"The dedication to duty of all health care staff, our nurse and midwifery members, medical and ambulance staff, and the examples of co-operative working between the civil defence, army and Gardaí in ensuring staff got to work and were able to deliver health care in very difficult circumstances, is a true example of selflessness and pride in the job they do every day.
"This is to be commended and the INMO now requires the employer to ensure practical appropriate plans are in place to cope with the aftermath of this crisis."