Hospitals struggling with an overcrowding crisis face coming under fresh pressure following the introduction of new rules surrounding the discharge of homeless people.
The Government has told the Health Service Executive (HSE) to put in place a formal mechanism which will ensure no patient, where possible, is "discharged into homelessness".
The decision, which was agreed by a Cabinet sub-committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform, will apply initially to hospitals in the Dublin region.
"The HSE will put in place a formal discharge protocol with Dublin hospitals and homeless services to ensure that, as far as possible, no patient will be discharged into homelessness. This will be operational in quarter one, 2015," according to a report obtained by the Irish Independent.
Government sources admitted last night that the new rules will have to be "carefully implemented" given the strain already placed on hospitals in terms of overcrowding.
At one stage yesterday, some 419 patients were waiting on trolleys which Health Minister Leo Varadkar admitted was too high. He said that the number had fallen substantially by the afternoon but that the overall trolley situation has been "not good this week at all".
Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive Cathal Morgan said he did not believe there will be a difficulty with hospitals having a discharge protocol that ensures "proper care and case management takes place".
While he said he could not speak on behalf of the HSE or hospitals who will have to implement the protocol, such a measure could be "helpful" for staff.