New figures show record numbers of overcrowding during the first six months of the year, with Cork University Hospital (CUH) among the worst in the country.
Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show CUH was the second most overcrowded hospital in the country during the first half of the year, with 3,631 patients on trolleys.
This represents a 24% increase when compared to the same time last year.
Overcrowding also increased at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) when compared to the same timeframe last year.
The INMO figures show 1,603 patients recorded on trolleys this year, representing a 30%, compared to 1,227 patients last year.
Nationally, 51,321 patients were on trolleys in Emergency Departments around the country during the first six months of the year.
The figures represent a 6% increase on the first six months of last year.
The figures also represent an increase during June of this year when compared to the same month in 2016, with CUH again amongst the most overcrowded hospitals in the country.
During June, 469 patients were kept on trolleys at CUH, the fourth most overcrowded hospital in the country after University Hospital Limerick (UHL), University Hospital Galway (UHG) and the Mater Hospital Dublin (MHD).
196 patients were on trolleys at MUH.
In recent weeks, emergency departments have endured severe nursing staff shortages due to a combination of vacant posts, staff leave and the inability to provide emergency staffing through agencies, the INMO found.
These shortages have had a negative impact upon patient care, creating intolerable working conditions for staff in both Emergency Departments and Wards, it also found.
The INMO understands that a number of hospitals, in recent weeks, have tried to maintain planned admissions in an effort to reduce waiting lists. However, according to the INMO these latest figures confirm hospitals do not have the capacity to provide required services.
INMO General Secretary, Liam Doran said: “These figures represent further evidence that our health service, through inadequate bed and staffing levels, simply cannot cope with the demands being placed upon it.”
“The legitimate attempts to reduce waiting lists has only exacerbated the levels of overcrowding, with the indignity and loss of privacy that result, now taking place, in this peak summer period, in Emergency Departments and Wards across the country. "
"These figures confirm that hospitals cannot deal with both planned and emergency admissions at the same time confirming that our health service remains far too small," he added.