It was something Tony Holohan spotted himself, almost a month ago.
The Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health had gone to hospital after becoming unwell and during a short stay, he noticed unoccupied beds and empty waiting rooms all around him.
The hospital wasn't as busy as he thought it should be, he later told reporters, and he was worried people were ignoring signs that they were unwell.
His message was clear: "Please do not ignore any symptom outside of Covid-19. The hospitals are there for all ailments, not just Covid-19."
The coronavirus crisis and the anticipated surge necessitated a fast and radical reconfiguring of the health service.
As part of that strategy, a range of measures were put in place, including suspending routine cancer screening, cancelling some operations and using telephone consultations.
A month on, the consequences are a cause of concern. Thankfully, the Covid-19 surge didn't come.
Instead, there are fears the stalling of the healthcare system is likely to lead to a surge of a different kind once the current crisis is over - a surge in acutely ill patients, who couldn't or wouldn't access the system in time because of coronavirus.
The law of unintended consequences means many will pay the ultimate price. More worryingly, there are indications that some have already.
"The figures speak for themselves," Stephen McMahon, director of the Irish Patients' Association, told the Irish Independent. "In the past six weeks we have seen 59,272 fewer visits to emergency departments and a reduction of 12,859 in emergency admissions.
"The numbers that we are quoting are so large that they will convert into patients that are seriously ill and some of them will die because they haven't connected with the system. Certainly, the evidence we have seen over the past couple of weeks shows that there is a very large number of non-Covid-related patients that have not connected with the hospital systems and that there are a large number of those who will pay a very high price for that. This is why we have been so concerned."
The Irish Patients' Association said lockdown measures will affect the numbers, but expressed concern that patients in need of treatment may be avoiding hospitals out of fear of getting infected by the virus. The numbers do not include the children's hospital groups.
"These are people with acute problems," said Mr McMahon.
"It makes you wonder. Where are they? Where have they gone? Either we have overused our acute systems in the past or there is a serious surge building up behind Covid-19.
"Screening tests are not being done, like mammograms and things like that, which can indicate a problem. So, if you are not doing the tests then the referrals aren't happening.
"This is the law of unintended consequences. The fact that while we are in a very challenging time, it doesn't stop decision-makers doing proper risk assessments on the decisions they are making."
In February, before the Covid-19 outbreak in Ireland, 21,713 people on average attended hospitals across the country every week.
This plummeted to just 11,756 people attending hospitals in the second week of April.
Hospitals have cancelled non-urgent surgeries, such as hip and knee operations, to free up space for infected patients.
Meanwhile, private hospitals taken over by the HSE at a cost of hundreds of millions of euro are barely being used.
Experts have raised fears over the impact the delays and cancellations in treatments are having on the health of patients with non-coronavirus symptoms, like those suffering with heart attacks, strokes or tumours. Many are choosing not to visit their GP - and visits to A&Es are down.
The Irish Heart Foundation says fear of contracting Covid-19 is the main reason people are downplaying their symptoms and delaying showing up at hospital.
Medics warn cancers are being missed every week as the numbers being referred by doctors for urgent hospital appointments or checks have dropped. Frank Sullivan, director of the Prostate Institute at NUI Galway and a consultant in the Galway Clinic, warned that there could be 1,800 to 2,000 deaths in Ireland from cancer because patients cannot access care during the Covid-19 crisis.
Closely linked to this is the impasse between private consultants and the Department of Health over their role in tackling the Covid-19 crisis.
As part of the efforts to prepare for the surge, the Government agreed a deal to take over 19 private hospitals for a three-month period during the Covid-19 crisis.
While the deal covered 2,000 beds, other facilities and most staff, it did not, however, encompass up to 600 consultants who work exclusively in the private sector.
These doctors were offered a locum contract - known technically as an A-type contract - under which they could see only public patients and would be paid between €141,000 and €195,000 a year. Private consultants have expressed concern about thousands of existing private patients who were already on their books if they moved exclusively into the public system.
"Some consultants have known their patients for a number of years," said Fergal McGoldrick, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon based in the Hermitage Medical Centre, Lucan, Dublin.
"With the oncologists, for example, who deal with cancer, they keep them for surveillance, meaning they will be seen every three to six months. They are monitoring them and keeping many of them alive by keeping a watch on them.
"For a patient with cancer, they are under a specialist, they are very closely monitored and yet now they are told they must go into a pubic waiting list to get seen by a consultant to decide whether their treatment is adequate. For a patient with cancer, that is frightening."
On Tuesday last week, there were 1,380 empty beds nationwide in acute hospitals. Similar data for the same day showed that there were 1,484 private beds not in use.
"Why can't half of those beds go back for the treatment of people who have medical illnesses?" said Dr McGoldrick.
"We are now into week six. The beds remain empty and we have patients getting seriously ill. The hospitals are completely stalled. They're effectively not functioning.
"Some of them are empty, doing a small number of day cases and most of them only have a trickle of beds in use. On a human level, there is going to be an increase in the number of non-Covid fatalities as this continues."
With vital national screening services such as BreastCheck, CervicalCheck and BowelCheck currently paused, there are fears that the HSE will face a huge backlog in cases.
"The resources dedicated to the service may need to be ramped up once screening recommences," said Rachel Morrogh, director of advocacy and external relations at the Irish Cancer Society.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers of patients being referred urgently to hospital with suspicious symptoms has dropped since the start of the outbreak.
In the Dáil, the Taoiseach said one GP told him that he had not diagnosed cancer for a month, which has never happened in their practice before.
Ms Morrogh said: "We would share the concerns that have been raised about people putting off seeking medical help if they have cancer symptoms.
"We are urging anyone who is concerned about cancer symptoms to contact their GP.
"Our nurses on the cancer nurse line are hearing from people who are concerned and even embarrassed about contacting their GP about potential cancer or other ailments because of the pressure the coronavirus is putting on GP surgeries.
"Finding cancer at the earliest opportunity is the best chance anyone can have at finding successful treatment and a good quality of life.
"All cancers are much easier to treat and have a greater chance of cure if they are caught early.
"In a coronavirus situation, we are naturally focused on dealing with a pandemic, but the Irish Cancer Society is concerned that the opportunity to diagnose cancer as early as possible could be lost."