A WAITING room at Beaumont Hospital was "packed" at the weekend with people "sitting side-by-side" the Dáil has been told.
Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall raised the claims in the Dáil as she quizzed Health Minister Simon Harris on what action is being taken to reduce the risk of infection spreading in hospitals during the coronavirus crisis.
Physical distancing is one of the key measures being advised by public health authorities in the fight against Covid-19.
She said she understood Mr Harris got a letter about the issue telling him about "the packed waiting room" at the Dublin hospital "where large numbers of people were sitting side-by-side, many of them waiting there up to 12 hours."
Ms Shortall said photographs were sent to the Minister and she asked him to respond to the "high-risk" situation."
She said she's concerned that similar situations are being repeated in Emergency Department waiting rooms throughout the country and she said "this is an urgent issue".
"What guidance is being given to public hospitals in terms of the safe management of people waiting for services in emergency departments?," she asked.
"On the one hand hospitals are providing services to Covid patients and on the other hand the non-Covid patients would seem to be placed at risk as a result of the failure to segregate and provide sufficient space for social distancing," she added,
"If that situation was to arise in a shop the numbers would be reduced drastically.
"There would be control on the numbers but there does not appear to be any control on the numbers in emergency department waiting rooms and we need a response on that urgently," she said.
Mr Harris said he hadn't seen the letter about Beaumont Hospital yet "but I will make sure I see it straight after this and I will respond to the Deputy and to the letter."
He said that the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has published a report on acute hospital infection prevention and control preparedness.
Mr Harris it was requested by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) "in recognition of the fact that we cannot talk about everybody else having to manage infection control and not get on top of it in our health service."