Over 108,000 patients were left waiting on trolleys in hospitals nationwide in 2018, making it the worst year on record for overcrowding.
According to an analysis by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), a total of 108,227 patients were left waiting on trolleys last year, an increase of 9% on 2017's figures, which was itself a record high.
The INMO began recording the number of patients on trolleys back in 2006, and in that year, 55,720 people were on trolleys.
The worst hit hospitals in 2018 were Limerick University Hospital (11,437 on trolleys), Cork University Hospital (9,135) and Galway University Hospital (7,452).
The worst affected Dublin hospital was Tallaght University Hospital (5,432), while the worst affected children's hospital was Temple Street Children's University Hospital (749).
Overall, January was the busiest month in 2018, with 12,201 patients on trolleys, followed by February (10,772).
According to the INMO, low capacity and understaffing were to blame for these startling figures. INMO nurses and midwives have already voted in favour of industrial action, after the Government failed to come up with satisfactory pay proposals to tackle the recruitment and retention problems within the health service.
The INMO executive is due to meet next week to set dates for strike action.
"The health service does not have enough beds to support our population. More beds means more nurses, but the HSE simply can't hire enough on these wages. It's beyond time for the Government to engage proactively with the INMO to resolve the crisis in Irish nursing and midwifery," commented INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
She added that patients should be focused on recovering, ‘but instead have to worry about waiting times, understaffing and a lack of beds'.