'There are lots of old people waiting on trolleys in there, it's just terrible to see them'
Amid warnings by medics that a blast of Arctic air would only serve to worsen the spreading of the flu virus, the swirling snow and bitter wind outside the Midland Hospital in Tullamore served as yet another reminder that this crisis is far from over.
Across the country yesterday, 541 people waited for hospital beds and at Tullamore patients and family members testified to the fact that the flu is now running rampant.
One woman in her 20s told the Irish Independent how her sister had been admitted at 10am with a "very bad case" of flu and was currently on a trolley. "It's very bad up there. Very busy. There are lots of old people on trolleys. It's just terrible to see them," she said.
Another patient wearing a face mask, who had gone outside to vape, told how she had been admitted at 11am that day with the flu and had been put on a trolley.
She had never had the flu before and was shocked at how badly it had hit her, she revealed.
"It's absolutely terrible, so it is. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy," she said.
The woman, who did not want to give her name, was being released later in the day and was told to go home and not go back to work for the remainder of the week.
One exhausted woman told how her young daughter had been admitted to hospital at 9pm the previous night, for another health concern.
Asked if her daughter had slept, she grimly replied: "She did - I didn't."
She had been taken off a trolley and put on a chair to await a CAT scan in the morning but was still there by mid-afternoon.
"This is her third admission in 10 weeks - I never want to see this place again," said the anxious woman.
Meanwhile, Stephen McMahon of patient advocate group the Irish Patients' Association said it was "heartbreaking" that children were left waiting for hospital beds.
Figures from the INMO showed that eight children were on trolleys at Temple Street Children's Hospital yesterday, while five were waiting at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin.
Mr McMahon commented on the figures: "It's simply heartbreaking to see children waiting on trolleys.
"We have to consider the stress people are under and any family would be worried about loved ones but specifically for children to be on trolleys is an extra concern."
A Children's Hospital Group spokeswoman said: "While long waiting times for children and families in emergency departments (EDs) is regrettable, this occurs every winter and the number of children attending the three children's hospitals' EDs is not unusual for this time of the year. There are a number of children presenting with the flu and other respiratory viruses and it is anticipated that this number will continue to increase for the next few weeks."