Men and women sharing wards to alleviate the trolley crisis
Patients are having to endure the indignity of mixed wards as the trolley crisis continues to leave many hospitals with dangerous levels of overcrowding.
The HSE said it is "not general practice to mix male and female patients", but it can happen in A&Es and departments such as coronary care units.
If a general ward has men and women, there must be measures in place to "protect the privacy and dignity of patients", said a spokeswoman.
The numbers on trolleys eased slightly yesterday, but 551 patients were still waiting for a bed.
The Mater Hospital had 28 patients without a bed in the morning, and Tallaght Hospital was again swamped, with 29 trolleys stacked up in its emergency department and wards.
Figures obtained by the Herald reveal that 480 adults, who no longer need hospital care, were occupying beds for various reasons, including 58 waiting for a home care package, while 263 are listed as "destination long-term nursing care".
These patients are processing Fair Deal applications or waiting for a nursing home of their choice to become free.
A total of 117 are in need of high level rehabilitation or are wards of court. Nine of the patients have "no fixed abode".
An HSE spokeswoman said "transitional care" beds have been made available to transfer some patients from hospital beds but are not yet ready to go home or to a nursing home.
An additional 45 home care packages a week are being specifically targeted at patients who are medically fit to leave hospital, she added.
One patient at the Mater Hospital yesterday, Anthony Nolan (21), said shortly after noon: "I've been here since 7am and will be probably be here for another three hours.
"There are patients that have been waiting on trolleys a whole lot longer, so I'm glad I don't have to spend the night."
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the report recommending up to 2,500 more beds is to be brought to the Cabinet in two weeks' time.
"I want to say that the case for extra beds in our hospitals is indisputable," he said.
"Even if there was no overcrowding in our hospitals, we would need more bed capacity.
"That's down to the fact we have a growing population and an ageing population."
However, he did not elaborate on the level of investment to be directed by the Government to the problem or the timescale involved.
The long-awaited job advertisement for the post of executive director of the off-ice to implement Slaintecare, the reform programme for the health service, will be published tomorrow.
The Department of Health refused to disclose the salary for the position.
The health service is already seen as top-heavy with highly paid managers at a time when patients are suffering because of a lack of frontline staff. HSE chief Tony O'Brien apologised yesterday for hospital conditions and said "the healthcare system needs to be differently shaped and sized".
Healthy children are being struck by flu and having to be admitted to hospital, but there has been no great surge in cases, said Dr Alf Nicholson, a paediatrician at Temple Street.
Children with underlying illnesses are most at risk of complications if they get the flu, and are recommended to get vaccinated every October.
However, the number of infected children so far appears "similar to other years", though that could change, said Dr Nicholson.
Dr Karina Butler, an infectious diseases consultant at Our Lady's Hospital Crumlin, said children under nine years of age who have not previously had the flu vaccine should get two doses to maximise protection.
The jabs should be a month apart.
Dr Butler, chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, which advises the HSE on all kinds of vaccinations, said flu for most children is a mild, uncomfortable illness.
However, she pointed out that "children can be transmitters of flu, particularly to vulnerable adults such as grandparents. Vaccinating children protects others".