A surgeon at University Hospital Limerick said the hospital is "in a crisis state" and that today's cancellations of surgeries will "become tomorrow's emergencies."

Almost all elective procedures at UHL have been deferred and a visiting ban, with some exceptions, is in place due to high Covid case numbers.

Professor Calvin Coffey told RTÉ's Morning Ireland the current cancellation of planned operations has come on the back of cancellations over the past two years during the pandemic.

"When you have to cancel surgery, the disease continues, it gets worse and the volume of disease and severity has worsend," Prof Coffey said.

He said it is "very upsetting" for patients and that frontline staff are "demoralised and depleted".

The professor said an elective hospital was required for the region and questioned how it was not part of the Sláintecare plan.

Professor Brian Lenihan, Chief Clinical Director of UL Hospital Group, echoed Prof Coffey's demand and said they "desperately" need more beds in the hospital.

He said there has been a record number of attendances at their ED recently.

Prof Lenihan said when a hospital does not have bed capacity they have to prioritise patients who present to the emergency departments and this means the cancellation of some planned procedures.

Last month, patients were urged not to attend the emergency department at UHL unless absolutely necessary.

The hospital said it was very busy with a high number of people presenting with a variety of complex illnesses, including Covid-19.

In a statement, UHL said anyone with less urgent complaints should expect long delays in the ED, and to consider other alternatives such as minor injury units, out-of-hours GP or pharmacists.