Irish hospitals overcrowding blamed on delayed discharge
The cause of overcrowding in Irish hospitals is down to a delay in discharging patients, the Health Service Executive has said.
The director general blamed the problem on the numbers whose phase of acute care had ended but who could not be placed elsewhere.
Tony O'Brien said it was concentrating on "clearing away red tape".
A nursing union said that 563 patients were waiting for admission across the Republic of Ireland on Monday.
Mr O'Brien said since December the HSE had been focussing on ensuring as many patients as possible, whose acute care had ended, could receive the subsequent care appropriate to them.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said the executive was working closely with Nursing Homes Ireland.
On the issue of patient safety, Mr O'Brien said he was very clear that "reducing the level of overcrowding will increase safety and that's why that's our number one priority right now".
When asked if hospitals are safe at the moment, Mr O'Brien said there are 28 different emergency departments with different stresses and refused to give a "general glib answer".
According to a nursing union, the worst affected hospitals on Wednesday were Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, where about 42 patients were waiting, University Hospital Limerick with 40 patients and Connolly Hospital in Dublin which had 37 patients waiting.
Phil Ní Sheaghda of the Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation said overcrowding was a capacity issue and that all 2,000 closed beds in hospitals around the country need to be opened immediately.
Irish Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is expected to make a statement on the overcrowding issue when he returns to Ireland later.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that nurses at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital were to serve notice of industrial action as a result of hospital overcrowding.