Seriously ill patients may have died prematurely because of the chronic overcrowding crisis in Irish hospitals, nurses have claimed.
Dave Hughes, Deputy General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Union (INMO), has warned a public inquiry will be held some time in the future as to why these deaths were "allowed to happen".
Speaking to the Irish Independent, he said the situation in some hospitals has reached "breaking point".
"There's always risk to human life, but there's no doubt in some cases people aren't getting the care that they're entitled to, and lives are being shortened.
"However, that's not going to be written on the death cert.
"It's a damning indictment on the Government, and there will be a public inquiry in years to come, as to why it was allowed to happen."
He pointed out some elderly patients - suffering from dementia - have been languishing on chairs "all night long".
"And due to their confused state there have been cases of people soiling themselves in front of other sick patients.
"They're not capable of doing anything else, and other patients have to witness it. The situation is horrific.
"We also have nurses literally running to catch patients falling off trolleys." He said the Government must commit to a five-year "targeted investment" in primary health care.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar told the Irish Independent he does not know if any patients have died as a result of the overcrowding crisis.
"Whether anyone died because of overcrowding or not, I can't say."
But there was no evidence to support the claim, he added.
"Unfortunately, overcrowding to some extent has been a feature of our health service for 15 years.
"There were inquiries into deaths in the early part of this century related to overcrowding, but that hasn't happened this year so far."