A patient in Northern Ireland waited more than 107 hours to be admitted to hospital this week.
The shocking figure was revealed to be the Health Department held a briefing on Wednesday to outline the pressures facing the health service.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, there were 542 people waiting in emergency departments, with 447 waiting there for more than four hours for admission and another 300 waiting more than 12 hours.
The longest recorded wait from arrival to admission to an emergency department was 107 hours and 43 minutes.
The figures also showed that there were 22 ambulances waiting outside emergency departments at 9am, with another six on the way at that time.
Occupancy in Northern Ireland hospitals was 111% on Wednesday morning.
The Health Department also indicated that there were 569 patients declared medically fit as of midnight Tuesday, representing 24 wards ready to be released in the system.
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) chief executive Michael Bloomfield also outlined the pressures facing the service.
For the past four weeks, the NIAS has received an average of 800,999 calls per day, peaking at 1,000 on December 19.
The average wait for a Category 1 call, the most urgent, was 14 minutes and 30 seconds, well above the eight-minute recommendation, with some waits as long as 30 minutes.
Category 2 calls took an average of one hour and 32 minutes to respond, while category 3 calls, the least urgent, had some waits of up to 24 hours.
Mr Bloomfield said service was losing 25-30% capacity while waiting outside emergency departments, with patients waiting 9-10 hours most days.
“The pressures facing the ambulance service have been well reported in recent days and are really just a symptom of the pressures across the system,” he said.
“They bring particular risks to patients waiting in the community for an ambulance who have not yet been tested.
“It has been a particularly busy period; we expect that to continue and worsen over the next few weeks over Christmas and into January.
“It also has a big impact on staff who wait so long with a patient, they will finish late and work 14-15 hour shifts at times.
“Patients are arriving in the community who know they have deteriorated for as long as they have waited.
“The importance of addressing the discharge issue to address the broader flow issues cannot be overstated.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride also warned that healthcare could be further destabilized by a rise in flu cases and a resurgence in Covid infections.
I cannot remember a time when concerns across the entire health and social care system were at this level. This winter it will be about providing the best possible care, minimizing harm and supporting staff as they once again bear the strain.
He urged people to get vaccinated to prevent the service from deteriorating further.
“I am extremely worried. The health service is extremely fragile and an extraordinary effort from staff has been required for many months so far,” she said.
“We will all need to play our part in helping our staff get through the next few weeks. We the public need to get vaccinated against flu and covid to protect ourselves, others and the health service from potential surges in these viruses.
“If you need urgent help, our health service is here to help, but we must use it wisely; and I ask everyone to work with hospital teams to support the discharge of their family members when their medical care is complete.
“We also need long-term, sustained action, including significant recurring investment and further reconfiguration of services. Patients and staff will continue to pay the price if this doesn’t happen.”