The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called for an urgent investigation into ongoing overcrowding issues at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
According to INMO figures, UHL has been the most overcrowded hospital in the country every day of this year.
Some 52 patients were waiting on trolleys at the hospital on Friday morning – more than three times as many as any other hospital in Ireland.
On Wednesday, The UL Hospitals Group urged the public to present to UHL’s emergency department "only in the event of serious illness or injury".
It was the second such warning the group had issued in the last month.
Overcrowding has long been a major issue at the hospital.
In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, the INMO noted that UHL had the highest number of overall patients waiting for care without beds in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The nurses and midwives union is now calling on the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) to launch an urgent investigation into what exactly is going wrong at the hospital.
"Frontline staff are at their wit's end,” said INMO assistant director of industrial relations Mary Fogarty.
“Something is clearly going wrong in UHL. We are calling on the healthcare inspectorate, Hiqa, to investigate and make recommendations.
Ms Fogarty said that, despite significant recruitment and an additional 100 acute care beds, UHL is still facing "runaway" overcrowding.
"Overcrowding adds stress for staff and worsens patient care. It is high-risk in normal times, but doubly so during an infectious pandemic.
"The HSE has pledged not to tolerate overcrowding during Covid – it’s time for them to live up to that promise," she said.