HSE bosses warn the number of people waiting for a hospital bed could reach 1,000 as the flu season heads towards its peak.
There are real fears the flu season could continue for another four months until May with the system coming under immense pressure over the next month.
There was a glimmer of hope as the high of 931 on Tuesday had dropped by almost half to 469 by Thursday.
However, HSE CEO Stephen Mulvaney cautioned the worst may still be to come as further waves of patients hit the healthcare system.
‘I wouldn’t want to be the harbinger of doom but at this stage we can’t tell until we see the peak of the flu,’ Mr Mulvaney told the Irish Mirror.
‘It is possible that we will see higher numbers of people on trolleys. What we are trying to do is avoid that happening or to manage it as safely as we can if it does happen.
‘Sitting here today, I can’t tell you that it won’t get to that because so far the actual numbers are aligned to our worst and most pessimistic models.
‘It’s a possibility, I’m not saying it’s a probability but I am saying it’s a possibility.’
Patients are according to some reports waiting upto 14 hours to be admitted to hospital emergency departments.
But Joe Ryan, national director of operation performance, said that the average wait time in the emergency department was 8.3 hours.
The average wait time for patients who were admitted to hospital beds was 13.8 hours.
Of over 27,000 people who presented to emergency departments last week, 1,887 people were on trolleys for more than 24 hours.
The crisis has been exacerbated by reports that between 10,000 to 11,000 health workers are sick from COVID-19 and flu as well as other illnesses.
Dr John Cuddihy, HSE Director of Public Health, said that the flu season started in November but it is not yet known when the current wave will peak.
‘On average the influenza seasons in the past have lasted an average of 11 weeks, ut there’s a wide range, sometimes over 20 weeks, which will take the season into April or May.’
He said it is estimated there will be a continued rise in cases over the next three to four weeks.