It will be "hell on earth" in Irish hospitals this winter if projections for hospital and intensive care unit admissions are correct, the President of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine has said.
A report for a meeting of the Emergency Department Task Force to discuss the draft HSE Winter Plan has said that a high flu season could see 4,350 hospitalisations, with 225 patients in ICU.
A worst-case scenario for Covid-19 would see 17,000 hospitalisations, with 700 patients in ICU during the six-month winter season.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne programme, Dr Hickey said: "This will be hell on earth. It'll be hell on earth for both patients and the clinical staff who are looking after them and it would be an Armageddon type situation.
"We simply don't have the bed capacity to cope as things stand and that has not been addressed after many years of agitation on this issue."
He said that emergency departments have become "warehouses for admitted patients".
"Our acute beds capacity is 2.8 acute hospital beds per 1,000 of the population, the OECD average is 4.3, so we're going into this with one hand tied behind our back and the reality is that our emergency departments have (been) left to become warehouses for admitted inpatients."
He said that the 40,000 patients waiting over 24 hours for admission were patients who had already been treated in emergency departments and were waiting to be moved to a hospital ward.
"Because they remain in the emergency departments, they completely negate the emergency department's capacity to act as an emergency department, so we can't deal with the next group of incoming patients."
He added: "We simply can't cope currently. We can't cope safely. We have no hope of coping in the winter if these numbers prove to be the case."
He described a winter initiative as "completely stupid" and said that it is a year-long issue.
"This is a 12 month of the year, a 365 day of the year problem.
"The only time that there seems to be either political interest in this, or health service management interest is in the winter, and yet, we set records all through the year.
"So we are doing this too late, and we're doing this without solving the underlying problem, which is our acute capacity shortage and critical care shortage."
25% increase in critical care beds - Minister
The Minister for Health has said there has been a 25% increase on baseline critical care beds from 225 to 322 since January 2020.
Stephen Donnelly said Ireland has had a "long-standing deficit" in such beds.
He said the Government is "investing significantly" in the area and there will be an additional 85 beds by spring 2023 for a total of 340.
Also responding to the figures earlier, Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Health David Cullinane said frontline workers "have been crying out for investment and assistance for many, many years".
Mr Cullinane criticised the Government's use of annual "winter plans" and said it "must lay out a multi-annual plan for expanding capacity in hospitals and in primary and community care".
Over 40,000 waiting time breaches
The report also found there were 40,398 breaches of waiting times, when patients were left waiting over 24 hours this yea.
The period covered is January to August and it represents an increase of 132% on the same period in 2021.
The Health Service Executive report says that on average the daily trolley count between January and August was 316.
The hospitals with the highest average daily trolley numbers were University Hospital Galway with an average of 36 patients a day, St Vincent's University Hospital with 24 patients a day and Cork University Hospital with 23 patients a day.