More than 12,000 patients were forced to wait on trolleys across the country's hospitals in January, the second-highest figure on record.
According to the trolley count by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), some 12,024 patients were waiting on trolleys in January as the bed shortage and a flu outbreak exacerbated the typically busy winter months.
January 2020 also saw the two worst days of overcrowding on record. On January 6 and 7, there were 760 patients on trolleys. This surpassed the previous record of 714, which occurred during the Beast from the East storm in March 2018.
- University Hospital Limerick: 1,215
- Cork University Hospital: 1,107
- University Hospital Galway: 872
- South Tipperary General Hospital: 824
- Mater Hospital, Dublin: 607
At the height of the overcrowding, visitor restrictions were put in place at many hospitals and surgeries were cancelled to ease the pressure. At the time, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar blamed "a very severe" flu season for exacerbating the issue.
According to the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre flu has killed 66 people so far this season. Of those who died, 54 (82%) were aged 65 years and older.
Last week 75 people were admitted to hospital with flu. So far this season there have been 3,164 flu-related hospital admissions, with 104 patients moved to intensive care.
January typically sees intense pressure on emergency departments and high numbers of patients waiting on trolleys.
The highest month on record was January 2018 when 12,395 patients were languishing on trolleys and chairs in hospitals.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, urged members of the public to make the trolley crisis an election issue by raising it on the doors with candidates.
"To show real leadership on health, political leaders need to set out how they will grow capacity, recruit more staff, and really kickstart the Sláintecare reforms," she said.
It’s not rocket science: we know how to fix the health service. The plan is there. All we need is the investment and political will to back up manifesto promises.
"If members of the public are concerned about the health service, I’d ask them to raise it as a priority with any canvassers who come to their door."
The HSE also collates its own trolley figures.
Its daily figures for January 31 showed 321 people on trolleys in acute hospitals. Of these, 167 were waiting for more than nine hours at the time of the HSE count.
The total represented a 37.77% increase versus the same day last year.