A Kildare couple have told of their nightmarish ordeal when they could not get a specialist appointment for sudden deafness during the current crisis despite contacting more than 20 doctors.
John Syrigos and his wife Joanna, who live in Timolin with their son William, eventually had to go to Belfast to get an MRI scan to find out what was causing the loss of John's hearing in one ear.
"It highlights the challenge many people are having in accessing emergency treatment despite government assurances that those in need can access care," said Joanna.
"John has had a completely blocked ear since January with declining hearing. He saw a GP in March who wrote a referral for an ear, nose and throat specialist just before the national lockdown.
"Since then he contacted more than 20 specialists in Ireland who all advised they were closed and not seeing patients.
"They advised he go to A&E at Royal Victoria Eye and Ear hospital in Dublin.
"But it has ceased all walk-in patients to A&E and instead set up appointments by phone.
"John was advised by a nurse by phone that they wouldn't see him as only extremely urgent cases are taken in despite his symptoms worsening, including ringing in ears and numbness spreading down arms."
The couple, who run the Ancient Origins website, tried to call A&E at the hospital as the symptoms worsened.
But despite calling the emergency department more than 30 times in three days, John could not get through, she said.
"He tried six other hospitals in Ireland - all closed for walk-in A&E, and finally went to the Mater Hospital in Dublin, but he was also told he could not see a specialist."
"John tried everything to get assistance but could not get help. I have also suffered as a result of the current lack of healthcare as my scheduled eye surgery was cancelled, leaving me virtually blind in one eye for the foreseeable future.
"If hundreds of Irish citizens cannot access medical treatment now for conditions, it could result in even more deaths or long-term health implications."
John eventually travelled to the Kingsbridge hospital in Belfast for an MRI where he was diagnosed with middle ear effusion, a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum, which can happen after an infection.
He now needs a tympanostomy tube inserted surgically to help drain the fluid, but as the waiting list backlog grows he does not know when it will be carried out.
A spokeswoman for the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin said patients needing to see an ear, nose and throat specialist would be referred by their GP for an outpatient appointment.
All units were accepting emergencies "albeit following altered guidelines for the common emergencies", she said.
All units have established virtual clinics to triage patients who were on the waiting list.
"The Eye and Ear Hospital has established a helpline for patients with concerns. This service is consultant-led and is proving to be very effective.
"While we have had to make changes within some hospital services to adapt to Covid-19, and postpone some services, the health service is here to respond to emergencies or urgent health needs."
Details of hospital service disruptions and visiting restrictions can be found on the HSE website. The spokewoman added that patients were advised to contact their GP if they had health concerns.