Patients advised to avoid Naas Hospital due to high numbers presenting there

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Update 2.05pm: The Emergency Department Taskforce will meet on Monday to discuss hospital overcrowding.

He also defended Minister for Health Simon Harris, saying it is a very hard job and he is very satisfied with his performance.

There are now 17 patients on trolleys with a further 13 waiting in already full wards at the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore.

According to a report by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation this Friday evening, there were 203 patients being treated on emergency department trolleys and on additional trolleys or beds in the wards at UHL this week.

He expressed his regret and frustration at the situation and that there has not been an improvement despite increased investment.

As the number of people waiting on trolleys and wards for a hospital bed fell below 500 on Friday, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said it was exasperated at comments by Mr Varadkar about the current overcrowding crisis.

"We will also continue to increase bed capacity and drive the reform our health service needs", Minister Harris said.

He said: "There are very few people in the ED's (Emergency Departents) who don't need to be there and there isn't anyone lying in a trolley who doesn't need to be there".

The call for a more stringent structure around patient admission and discharge come as the Limerick hospital was revealed as having the highest number of patients - 8,869 - forced to wait on trolleys for a bed a year ago.

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She said that under HSE policy, the joint chairpersons of the Emergency Department Task Force must be notified in advance of this.

In a statement, hospital management says the A&E unit is 'extremely busy'.

The new figures come as 2017's overall figures showed an overall increase on people on trolleys jumped of 6pc.

The INMO recently released its annual figures for 2017, which revealed that nearly 99,000 patients were left waiting on trolleys previous year, with the highest figure recorded in University Hospital Limerick (8,869).

Dr Foran said the challenge for the hospital has been to find isolation beds to treat patients with the flu.

She said: "If you think your child has the flu next Monday, please don't bring them to school because then we will have a significant outbreak".

As a result, the hospital is restricting visitors to one person per patient only and said visiting hours must be strictly adhered to.

The HSE said the H3N2 strain also circulated past year and particularly affected the elderly, while young children are more susceptible to influenza B.

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