All elective surgery is to be cancelled at Cork's two main hospitals until further notice in response to overcrowding in their emergency departments.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said earlier that Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital are operating "beyond their limits" and that they expect the situation to get worse next week.

The decision was made following a meeting between the HSE and the INMO.

On the Sunday before what is regarded as one of the busiest weeks for emergency departments, a delegation from the INMO went to the headquarters of the South/South West Hospital Group in Cork to discuss what they described as an overcrowding crisis at Cork’s two largest hospitals.

Going into that meeting, nurses from both Cork University Hospital and the Mercy University Hospital described conditions at the hospitals as chaotic and inhumane. And they said conditions were the worst they have ever seen.

After more than three hours of discussions, agreement was reach on a number of issues including staffing and measures to deal with overcrowding.

All elective procedures at the two hospitals have been cancelled until further notice.

There has also been agreement to source extra beds from the private and community sectors.

And all nursing posts in Cork that have been approved will be fast-tracked.

The two sides are due to meet again on Wednesday to discuss some outstanding issues.

The INMO said that if they are not satisfied with the progress they will be consulting with their members.

In order to contain the spread of flu, MUH has imposed a complete visitor ban, while Cork University Hospital has imposed visitor restrictions.

A number of other hospitals in the region have appealed to people with flu-like symptoms to go to their GP before attending emergency departments.

Visitor restrictions in place at Donegal hospital

Visiting restrictions remain in place at Letterkenny University Hospital in Donegal due to ongoing cases of flu.

General Manager Sean Murphy said an average of six new cases were being seen every day.

"We are appealing to people to co-operate with the visiting restrictions so that we can protect the many very sick patients in the hospital.

"Patients with flu must be accommodated in isolation to prevent the spread of infection and this is putting severe pressure on the availability of beds for other seriously ill patients who need to be admitted for treatment."

The hospital is urging the public to stay away from the hospital unless absolutely necessary.

Portiuncula Hospital in Balllinasloe, Co Galway, has also seen an increase in the number of people presenting with flu-like symptoms.

People are being advised to contact their GP or GP Out-of-Hours service if possible.

Only immediate family should visit patients and visitors are limited to two at a time.

Young people and children should not visit patients other than in exceptional circumstances.

Additional Reporting Teresa Mannion