Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has apologised to patients who have experienced long delays and waits on trolleys in emergency departments. 

He expressed his regret and frustration at the situation and that there has not been an improvement despite increased investment. 

He said the numbers are coming down and the situation should stabilise in the next few days. 

He also defended Minister for Health Simon Harris, saying it is a very difficult job and he is very satisfied with his performance. 

Earlier, Mr Harris also apologised to patients waiting on trolleys in hospitals across the country, describing it as unacceptable and that he is committed to fixing the situation.

He said he would like to break the cycle of overcrowding in the health service and that capacity needs to be increased.

The Health Service Executive said this morning that there were 12 children on trolleys in the three children's hospitals in Dublin.

It said there are eight children waiting for a bed at Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin, two at Temple Street and two at Tallaght.

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Two of the children in Crumlin have been waiting on a trolley for more than nine hours, according to the HSE TrolleyGar figures.

The Children's Hospital Group said that any long wait times for children in Emergency Departments  is regrettable.

The overall HSE figures show that overcrowding has reduced today to 438 patients, when the children's hospitals are included.

It also shows that 56 patients have been waiting on trolleys more than 24 hours in hospitals around the country.

The figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which also take into account those waiting on wards, show that there are 592 patients waiting for a bed.

The hospitals worst affected are University Hospital Limerick with 52 patients waiting, St Luke's in Kilkenny with 46 and Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore with 37.

Yesterday's INMO figure of 677 patients represented a new record for the health service.

Minister Harris held a teleconference with the chief executives of the country's hospital groups to discuss the overcrowding crisis and said he was satisfied that everything that can be done is being done.

He said he hopes the Emergency Department Task Force, which is also due to meet the INMO, will meet next week.

The Clinical Director of Temple Street Children's University Hospital has said the flu virus has not reached its peak, and she appealed to parents with children who may have the flu to be cognisant.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Dr Adrienne Foran said she would be concerned that the flu could spread and an outbreak could occur when schools return next week. 

She urged parents not to send their children to school if they have flu symptoms.

Dr Foran said the challenge for the hospital has been to find isolation beds to treat patients with the flu. 

The HSE has said this afternoon that flu cases are increasing and advised people showing symptoms not to go to work or school.

Doctors say they are seeing a mix of the H3N2 strain - the so-called 'Aussie flu' - and influenza B.

The HSE said the H3N2 strain also circulated last year and particularly affected the elderly, while young children are more susceptible to influenza B.

The HSE's Assistant National Director for Public Health and Child Health Dr Kevin Kelleher said that between 80 and 120 deaths are directly linked to influenza each year.

He welcomed the increase in the uptake of the flu vaccine among health staff, but said he wanted it even higher.