Overcrowding unsatisfactory but not an emergency - Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has conceded that hospital overcrowding is "not satisfactory" - but he rejected allegations that it is an "emergency" situation.
As overcrowding in emergency departments continued to grow, the Government came under serious pressure to take radical action.
Health service union leaders and the opposition severely criticised the Government's response to the problem which they claim had reached "crisis levels" in many of the country's hospitals.
In 2006, when there were fewer people on hospital trolleys, the then-Health Minister Mary Harney declared "an emergency" and triggered exceptional measures to tackle the problem.
Asked about this yesterday, Mr Kenny said the situation was better than it had been this time last year and the Government would continue to work on economic recovery to generate more money to invest in vital services such as health.
The Taoiseach said Health Minister Leo Varadkar had visited six hospital A&Es in recent days and was working to help resolve the problems.
"It's still not satisfactory. Government will continue to develop the economy to a point where we continue to develop the infrastructure to provide facilities for medical personnel to have the best facilities to look after their patients," Mr Kenny told reporters during a visit to The Netherlands.
But the Taoiseach remained adamant when asked about a "national emergency" and its associated exceptional measures.
"I've said it's not satisfactory. It's better than last year but we have a lot to do in this regard," he said.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said hospitals were asking patients not to turn up at emergency departments.
He argued that this clearly showed the level of crisis the service was now locked into and said the HSE urgently needed extra funding in efforts to tackle overcrowding.
"Our emergency departments again are in crisis as we face into 2016. There is just not enough capacity to deal with the through-put," he said.
Mr Kelleher said there were not enough nurses despite recruitment promises during 2015 to ensure standards of service.
"We have a lack of emergency consultants and simply our hospital system is under huge pressure," he said, adding that the Government failed to put a plan in place to deal with overcrowding and the nurses' ballot in favour of striking had shown their frustration.