Seven acute hospitals had 30 or more admitted patients waiting for a bed today and the worst-hit hospital was University Hospital Limerick with 76 waiting.
The figures compiled by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation show that there were 546 patients waiting for beds – 394 in emergency departments and 152 on wards.
Cork University Hospital was the second worst-hit hospital with 61 admitted patients waiting for a bed while University Hospital Galway had 56.
The seven hospitals with more than 30 patients waiting also included the Mater Hospital in Dublin (32), Letterkenny University Hospital in Donegal (39), South Tipperary General Hospital (36) and University Hospital Waterford (34).
According to the HSE Special Delivery Unit TrolleyGAR that only counts patients on trolleys waiting in EDs, there were 419 patients waiting. There were 235 patients waiting in EDs for over nine hours – 89 were waiting over 24 hours.
The HSE points out that on the same day last year there were 330 patients waiting – 143 over nine hours so there has been a 27% increase in trolley waiters compared to last year.
Patient advocate, Stephen McMahon, said the number of admitted patients being treated on trolleys in EDs and on wards was “absolutely shocking.”
Mr McMahon, who is chairman and co-founder of the Irish Patients Association said former Minister for Health, Mary Harney declared it was a “national emergency” one day in 2006 when 495 people waited on trolleys to be treated.
“We have had very high trolley numbers throughout the summer and we know there are risks to patients' lives. The level of hospital overcrowding is truly frightening," he said.
Overcrowding also leads to elective surgery being cancelled – surgery that is not optional for the patients involved – it is very important. I am appalled at the trolley numbers, particularly over the summer. We really should be doing better.
Mr McMahon, who is a member of the HSE Emergency Department Task Force said it last met back in January. “The ED Task Force needs to be reconvened soon and start working on a plan to reduce overcrowding. The winter season has not even hit yet. Do we have to see an unfortunate family sharing their tragedy in the media for people to wake up and realise this is a very serious problem?
"It is all very fine to say that there are going to be more beds in a few years but it is what is happening now that bothers me greatly. Let's be honest and recognise there is a problem."
University Limerick Hospital Group has urged people to consider all care options before going to the ED at University Hospital Limerick.
UHL has been dealing with high volumes of patients in the ED since the weekend and there has been an increase in the number of delayed discharges across the hospital group.
The delayed discharges that doubled last month compared to 12 months previously are due to issues around accessing transitional care and home care package funding.