'The very second we went through the doors of A&E, it was like hell'
Michelle Coonan was "horrified" at the scene that greeted her in the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
On Tuesday, she drove 85km to the Limerick ED from her home in Clonmore, north Tipperary, as accident and emergency services in the Premier County have been streamlined to Limerick.
Ms Coonan had brought her three-year-old grandson Seán to UHL with a suspected broken nose.
As they arrived at the hospital they came upon dozen of ambulances waiting at the ED to unload patients.
"I could see all the ambulances parked in rows, backed up towards the accident and emergency department. I had never seen anything like it. I thought the paramedics were on strike," she said.
"When we got to the waiting room there was about 50 people sitting there."
She said one woman with a "drip in her arm" had been waiting since the early morning.
"The very second we went through the doors of A&E, it was like hell inside. There were people lying [on trolleys] everywhere. The paramedics were waiting to unload more patients. It was really sad. I was horrified," she said. "What I saw in there was shocking. I don't know how the staff coped. It was the worst I've ever seen it. God help the people who were in the ambulances.
"We were like sardines packed into a can. I don't know how the staff were able to assist people.
"The Irish Government should be ashamed of itself."
Last night, the HSE issued a statement saying the Christmas/New Year period has been exceptionally busy with many frail elderly patients presenting and requiring admission to hospital.
They said this can "unfortunately cause delays to ambulances when they arrive at UHL and the hospital regrets that any patient has to wait to be seen".