Overcrowding in hospitals leads to six flu outbreaks
Six outbreaks of flu have already occurred in overcrowded hospitals this winter - highlighting the risks to vulnerable patients.
The outbreaks arose where flu-infected patients passed it on to others who had been admitted without the virus but needed care for other illnesses.
The spread of the potentially deadly infection comes as hospitals struggle to cope with the trolley crisis, which has led to little space between patients.
Many hospitals are hampered by a lack of isolation facilities, which increases the chances of a contagious disease being passed between patients.
Hospital A&Es suffered another rise in trolley numbers yesterday with 558 waiting for a bed compared to 541 on Tuesday.
There were 13 children on trolleys in children's hospitals, including seven in Our Lady's Hospital Crumlin and six in Temple Street.
Cork University Hospital was swamped with 53 patients on trolleys yesterday morning.
Other hospitals struggling included Letterkenny Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin.
Figures to be released today will indicate whether flu levels have stabilised or are continuing to rise.
Meanwhile, the Oireachtas was briefed yesterday by healthcare unions and frontline workers on the state of the trolley crisis.
Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly said: "Those who attended painted a bleak picture of the everyday situation for patients and staff alike.
"It is harrowing to hear of doctors and nurses having to ration beds for patients and trying to decide which emergency patient should get a bed first because there is a capacity crisis.
"There was unanimity at the briefing that all closed beds need to be immediately reopened and that we have to move to providing much increased capacity over the next number of years to deal with changing demographics.
"The workers in our health service are demoralised and facing burn-out; we heard that first-hand.
"The reasons for this are working conditions, facilities, supports, training opportunities, promotion opportunities, and pay."
She said some nurses who were counting trolleys were being intimidated.
"These nurses are being pressurised into submitting a lower figure for the number of patients on trolleys than the actual real figures. Such tactics are beyond disgraceful and this needs to be investigated as a matter of urgency.
"I am calling on Minister Simon Harris to investigate this and to address these claims first hand," added Ms O'Reilly.
"There is a need now more than ever to listen to the representative bodies and frontline healthcare workers in order to directly target the issues which they raise as problematic for staff in our hospitals."
Meanwhile, visiting restrictions remain in most hospitals across the country.
University Hospital Limerick said: "As flu can be carried in to the hospital by patients or visitors, it is necessary to restrict visitors to one person per patient only and to remind members of the public that visiting hours are from 2pm to 4pm and from 6pm to 9pm only and are to be strictly adhered to.
"Members of the public are reminded not to bring children on visits anywhere in the hospital.
"Parents visiting children are unaffected by the restrictions but are advised not to bring siblings."
People with flu-like symptoms are advised to contact their GP by phone in the first instance and avoid presenting at emergency departments.
Patients should advise staff if they or a family member has been showing symptoms of flu or the winter vomiting bug.