Patients tolerated the worst August for hospital overcrowding on record, according to new figures.
Ireland may have enjoyed a sun-drenched summer, but 7,911 patients were trembling on trolleys last month.
The figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO) show the pressure on hospitals – even before the start of the cold and flu season.
The trolley numbers for the month are 2 percent higher than last year. Among those who were forced to wait for a bed were 30 children.
The hospitals most affected were University Hospital Limerick with 969; University Hospital Galway with 619; and the University Hospital of Cork with 604.
The figures also show that staff shortages caused the closure of 31 hospital beds during the height of the trolley crisis, showing new figures.
A snapshot in hospital mid-February shows that 99 beds were unreachable, despite the desperate needs of patients in overburdened SEH departments.
Contamination control and refurbishment were cited as other reasons to exempt the beds for patients on trolleys.
The extent to which the recruitment and retention of nurses in particular is a crisis or not, will become one of the most important public payment competitions this winter.
There are signals from Minister Paschal Donohoe of Finance that he will resist their demands for special pay increases.
INMO Secretary General Phil Ni Sheaghdha warned: "Although it was a mild month, patients and staff were confronted with overcrowding of the file, with almost 8,000 sick and wounded waiting without a bed.
"The message from the front line is clear: this all comes down to paying.
"The HSE simply can not find enough nurses and midwives to work on these wages.
"It is no coincidence that Limerick had such a bad month, they have more than 70 vacancies for nurses."
She said that unless nurses and midwives receive equal treatment from equivalent qualified health professionals, vacancies remain open and "things only get worse".
The INMO will meet the HSE and the Department of Health at the Workplace Relations Commission next week.
The two sides will discuss "understaffing and overcrowding," she added.
"The INMO asks the HSE to present plans for dealing with the winter crisis, including which hospital services they intend to shorten in order to meet additional demand," said Ni Sheaghdha.
The Public Pay Commission, which looks at recruitment and retention, will soon report to Mr. Donohoe.