Almost 10,000 patients walked away from emergency departments (EDs) in May without finishing their treatment.
The figure of 9,727 represents one in every 13 patients who presented at an ED during the month, or 7.7 per cent of all presentations.
A large variation was seen across the country, with the highest percentage of walk-outs seen at Tallaght University Hospital in Dublin at almost 18 per cent of presentations.
Naas General Hospital in Co Kildare and St James's Hospital in Dublin both saw more than 12 per cent of presentations walk away, although eight other hospitals reported rates lower than five per cent.
Sinn Féin's health spokesman David Cullinane said the problem was partly down to overcrowding.
“There is a clear correlation between the hospitals that have the highest wait times and the hospitals that have the highest numbers of patients who left without getting treatment or without being seen,” he told Newstalk radio.
“Obviously it’s a product of real pressures in hospitals, people waiting for far too long, people maybe taking a decision to leave and to come back on another date to be seen.”
The HSE said EDs are for people with serious injuries or illnesses, but many others attend when they do not need to. It said patients are treated by priority and, because of this, some with less serious needs may choose to seek healthcare elsewhere.
‘A June like no other’
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) today described “a June like no other” in Irish hospitals, with “out-of-control hospital overcrowding coupled with rising Covid hospitalisations.”
“In 16 years of counting trolleys, we've never seen June figures higher than the preceding January,” said INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the 9,961 patients who went without a bed in hospitals during the month.
“Nurses are constantly raising the dangers associated with overcrowding in their workplaces, however, the figures for the month of June are out of control and a stark warning of what is to come for the autumn and winter period, considering none of the mitigation measures necessary are being implemented.
“This level of overcrowding warrants senior HSE and Government attention, it is not okay and it is not safe.”
The most overcrowded hospitals in June included University Hospital Limerick which saw 1,829 patients on trolleys, Cork University Hospital with 1,059 patients on trolleys, and University Hospital Galway with 828 patients on trolleys.
The INMO called on the HSE to take “urgent and direct intervention” to tackle the crisis, including convening the Emergency Department Taskforce.
It also called for the reinstatement of on-site Covid testing for all patients upon arrival to EDs, the assessment of ventilation and air flow in hospitals to ensure required safety levels are met, and the publication of the numbers of healthcare workers being infected with Covid at work.
It also called for the HSE to advise the Government to re-introduce mask wearing in congregated public spaces.