The HSE has insisted that "extensive plans" are in place to prevent hospital overcrowding this bank holiday weekend.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) indicated yesterday that 527 people who had been admitted to hospital over the previous 24 hours were still waiting for a bed. More than a hundred of those patients were in University Hospital Limerick. (UHL).
Damien McCallion, chief operations officer with the HSE, told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that all of their hospitals, community services and ambulance services have looked at what they can do to mitigate the additional pressures of bank holiday weekends such as Easter.
"The actions they take are things like trying to ensure there is continuous flow of discharges right through this week and in to the weekend. So patients who are in hospital and don't need to be there and perhaps can be discharged home to other settings can do so. Ensuring there is increased availability of diagnostics and investigations over the weekend.
"Also in terms of ensuring there is appropriate medical and clinical cover over the weekend in terms of additional capacity. And separately to that many of the measures such as private hospital beds -- what we call transitional care increased beds in the private sector which we can use for discharge to support people perhaps who can't yet go home. All of those measures have been continued throughout this weekend as well."
Mr McCallion said UHL is looking at areas for improvement -- not just right across the hospital but also in the community.
"In addition to that their Medical Assessment Units -- these are units that take referrals from GP's for patients who might or might not need hospital admissions it allows them to be assessment for a period of time in Ennis, Nenagh and St John's in the city -- they are being extended to a seven-day basis.
"That is an important step. The hospital is trying to put that in to place as quickly as possible over the coming days. It is obviously dependent on staff and staff are being redeployed to assist in putting that in place immediately.
"Limerick will try to prioritise staff and bring in additional staff on a temporary basis while they fill that on a permanent basis. We are also looking at that option in relation to other places around the country."
Meanwhile, the INMO has called on the HSE to take specific steps to prevent chaos in Irish hospitals over the weekend.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said their members are concerned at the very high levels of overcrowding leading into the Easter period.
"We have set out the necessary immediate steps that must be taken to alleviate pressure across hospital sites. We know that after every bank holiday there is a predictable surge in the number of people on trolleys.
"Therefore, all efforts to increase discharges, including over the long weekend period must be undertaken. Where it is available additional capacity must be obtained from the private sector and alternative care pathways in the community must be utilised.”