March was the second worst month on record for overcrowding in hospitals, a major union has warned.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said analysis of its daily reports from accident and emergency units showed 9,381 patients spent time waiting on trolleys for a bed in a ward.
The only other month with a worse record was February 2015 when 9,657 people were forced to sit in corridors or holding bays in crisis hit hospitals.
And the report was compounded by revelations from Fergal Hickey, a consultant in Sligo and spokesman with t he Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, that five ambulances queued to get patients into the emergency unit
Staff had to move trolleys to get to patients, he said.
“There is incontrovertible evidence that if you have patients over 75 detained on a trolley for over 12 hours you will have bad outcomes,” he said.
“Until someone faces up and does something about it people are going to continue to die who shouldn’t die.”
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said overcrowding is worsening against a backdrop of steep increase in demand, a lack of beds and a severe shortage of nurses.
“Notwithstanding this period of political inertia, nothing must get in the way of whatever special measures are necessary to lessen the current environment facing patients and frontline staff,” he said.
The Department of Health claimed that January is traditionally the worst month of the year for trolley waits and overcrowding.
It said emergency units in hospitals were historically under increased pressure at the start of each year due to a number of factors including the number of people suffering fractures from falls on icy ground, winter bugs such as the norovirus, flu and delays in discharging elderly patients.
The INMO said March showed a 5% rise in trolley waits on the same month last year.
The figures also showed a 100% increase in overcrowding compared with March 2008 when 4,701 patients waited on trolleys.
The INMO said the numbers are startling and added that the health service continues to face intolerable levels of overcrowding because of a lack of beds and staff despite other initiatives.
Mr Doran called for an immediate meeting of the emergency department implementation group, set up by Health Minister Leo Varadkar to try to resolve the crisis last year.
The INMO figures included reports on the worst affected hospitals:
:: Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore, had trolley waits up from 204 to 568 in the last year;
:: South Tipperary General Hospital was up from 233 to 552;
:: University Hospital Limerick was up from 558 to 710;
:: Cork University Hospital was up from 412 to 550;
:: Bantry General Hospital was up from 39 to 146.
The agreement involving the INMO, the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health to resolve the overcrowding is to be reassessed on Friday April 15.
The union detailed further data from monthly analysis of its daily trolley wait surveys.
The number of people waiting on a trolley, wheelchair or chair in A&E units, corridors and other holding bays before they secure a bed in a ward peaked in February 2015.
Last month’s total of 9,381 was the second highest monthly total ahead of the 9,345 patients who were recorded in January of this year.
Other months when the total surpassed 8,000 patients on trolleys included January and March last year and February this year.