The devastating impact the coronavirus is having on public patients needing surgery is revealed in stark new figures showing waiting lists have jumped by a record 11,000 in just a month, to 77,748.
ospitals have had to impose massive cancellations in March and April in order to free up beds, intensive care units and staff to cope with the rise in coronavirus patients.
But with another three weeks of emergency measures and potentially months of a clampdown on thousands of routine care appointments ahead, the fear is that more patients facing critical delays will die on waiting lists.
It comes as another 25 patients have died from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 288, ranging in age from 32 to 105.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan revealed around 156 of the deaths from the virus have involved residents of nursing homes or residential centres.
There have been 135 clusters in nursing homes but this is out of 550 nursing homes.
Some one in five of the residents and one in six staff were diagnosed with the virus. "We are concerned about the rate of infection," he said.
Overall 480 new cases of the virus have been diagnosed, pushing the total to 7,054.
He was asked to clarify why the European disease watchdog had a higher figure. It emerged that when 1,035 tests from a German laboratory, which is being used to clear a backlog from here, are added in the full total of positive cases here rises to 8,089.
Dr Holohan said around 14,000 to 16,000 swabs had been outsourced to Germany and these were "historic" tests which were two to three weeks old and made no difference to the daily growth in figures.
Dr Colm Henry, of the HSE, said he was unable to say how many are waiting for a test result but insisted that HSE centres taking swabs are now able to cope with demand.
Dr Holohan warned there is a need to have a "lightening quick" testing regime here by the end of the extended period of emergency measures on May 5 if there is to be any relaxation of some of the restrictions.
Irish laboratory services should be capable of ramping up testing here from the middle of next week, he added.
The HSE and National Virus Reference Laboratory UCD (NVRL)reached an agreement with Genomics Medicine Ireland Limited (GMI) for the supply of reagents that will enable the lab to significantly increase coronavirus testing.
A spokeswoman said reagents for the production of up to 900,000 tests have been secured by GMI and NVRL, with components for the first 200,000 already delivered to its laboratory in Cherrywood, Dublin. "The laboratory will operate seven days a week to formulate these reagents for the NVRL and its partner laboratories, who are the primary testing centres for Covid-19.
"This will enable the NVRL to ramp up to 10,000 tests per day in the coming weeks supporting a more rapid analysis of samples and a quicker turn-around of test results to clinicians."
Dr Holohan said there are currently 157 patients with the virus in intensive care.
To date 62 patients who were treated in intensive care were discharged and 31 died there.
Meanwhile, nursing home residents with Covid-19 should not be brought to one of the new GP-led community hubs to be set up by the HSE, according to new guidance.
The hubs, located in primary care centres, are being set up to allow doctors to examine patients with the virus who are self-isolating at home who may be deteriorating and need medical care.
Guidelines say GPs should not send nursing home patients to one of these hubs.
The resident should be assessed by their own GP "remotely" and sent to a hospital A&E if deteriorating. This has led to concern of delay by some hospital doctors.