An average of 34 patients over the age of 75 were left on hospital trolleys waiting for a bed for more than 24 hours every day in the first seven months of the year.
The 7,161 patients have been identified as a particularly vulnerable group by emergency doctors.Emergency medicine consultant Dr Fergal Hickey warned they are much less likely to be able to return home to independent living after more than 12 hours on a trolley.
Several hospitals were continuing to struggle with overcrowding yesterday as 397 people waited for a bed.Among the worst hit were Cork University Hospital, Sligo Regional Hospital and Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
The Irish Independent
reports that Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed yesterday the HSE is to install prefabs - otherwise known as modular buildings - on some hospital grounds to accommodate some low-risk patients in order the ease the pressure on beds.
He said: "Some of our emergency departments are built to accommodate attendances of 15,000 or 20,000.
"They are now seeing in the region of 35,000 a year.
"There is a clear physical capacity issue.
"That is why I asked the HSE to go to tender for this temporary accommodation."
The hospitals which will get the prefabs have yet to be named but they will include South Tipperary Hospital, which suffers from a severe lack of space.
Asked how the HSE is to achieve its target to have no more than 236 patients on trolleys in a day by early December, Minister Harris said it must be done by a series of measures.He said this could be done by increasing capacity in emergency departments, increasing the number of home help hours and getting on with the job of recruiting 1,000 additional nurses.
He said the advertisements for these nursing posts would be posted this week.
The minister also said there were specific actions for the nine worst hit hospitals, including opening additional beds in Naas and Waterford.
He added: "We have to continue to expect that those who manage our hospitals will do so to the best of their ability.
"I am concerned about the lack of operational grip in some of our hospitals.
"If you look at the increase in trolleys between 2pm and 8pm you would worry about the lack of senior decision-makers on our hospitals at those hours to ensure that patients are discharged and moved on."