Over 10,679 people have been without a hospital bed in the month of October, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Trolleywatch figures, making it the second-highest October on record.
The union noted this was a more than 25 per cent increase on the same period last year and more than double the figures for October 2020.
More than 393 children under the age of 16 were on trolleys in the month of October, the worst month for paediatric overcrowding on record.
The hospitals with the highest levels of overcrowding this month are: Cork University Hospital – 1,342 patients, University Hospital Limerick – 1,268 patients, University Hospital Galway – 810 patients, St James’s Hospital – 702 patients and Sligo University Hospital – 700 patients.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said hospitals will be in a "perilous state" this winter without significant interventions from the HSE and Government.
We urgently need access to private hospital resources, increased staffing and a detailed timeline for the winter plan.
"We have seen three instances of over 600 people on trolleys in the past week alone. This is not sustainable for nurses, midwives and other patient-facing staff.
“Over 393 children went without a bed this month. Our members in paediatric hospitals are reporting that not only are we seeing more and more children presenting, but there are also less staff to deal with the demand. The safe staffing levels in one Dublin paediatric hospital are half of what they should be. This cannot continue further into the winter."
She added: “Unsafe staffing levels are going to be a feature of this winter unless we see targeted recruitment and retention plans in each hospital to allow for more nurses and midwives to be recruited at the pace in which we need them, Directors of Nursing and Midwifery in each hospital should have a greater role in recruitment.
“The Department of Health and HSE must come forward and state when exactly capacity will be utilised from the private sector. All capacity that is available to the State at this point must be made available until at least March. Our members and the patients they will be caring for must be assured that all beds that can be used, will be.
“We urgently need access to private hospital resources, increased staffing and a detailed timeline for the winter plan."