The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has described the current beds crisis in Irish hospitals as "intolerable", as the union reported over 121,318 patients — including 2,777 children — went without a bed in hospitals in 2022.
This year was the worst on record for hospital overcrowding in Ireland.
In December alone, 11,842 patients admitted to hospital were without a bed.
This month, the most overcrowded hospital was University Hospital Limerick. Over the course of the year, there were 18,028 patient left without a bed at the hospital.
Other hospitals that saw major overcrowding included Cork University Hospital (12,439 patients without a bed in 2022), University Hospital Galway (10,150), Sligo University Hospital (8,136) and St Vincent's University Hospital (7,513).
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that nurses and midwives spent the past year "working in a constant state of crisis".
"Nurses are unfortunately ending this year how they started it — firefighting intolerable overcrowding coupled with highly transmissable viruses and infections.
"INMO members in triage and emergency departments in Ireland’s busiest hospitals are highlighting how the conditions are comprising patient safety.
"570 patients are without a bed in Irish hospitals today, we know from experience that in the first weeks of January that trolley figures could have the potential to nearly double.
"The State cannot walk into the next week unprepared for what could be a severe overcrowding crisis.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said that there has been a "silent acceptance" from the Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE) on overcrowding in hospitals.
"The HSE have acknowledged that things are going to get worse in our hospitals before they get better but have not outlined what precise supports will be made available to our members in the coming days and weeks ahead," she continued.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the HSE had a duty as an employer and service provider to scale up capacity in hospitals.
"The current state of our health system is extremely concerning. The INMO has called for the HSE to have a realistic plan. We cannot allow a drift into this dangerous situation emerging across the country."