Current overcrowding at the Rotunda neonatal unit is having some very serious consequences
Every year, around 4,500 babies are born prematurely in Ireland.
And for the vast majority of them, this means days, weeks and, for some, even months spent in the country's Neonatal Intensive Care Units.
But right now, at Dublin's Rotunda Hospital, overcrowding is at an all-time high, with Professor Fergal Malone stating this week that overcrowding contributed to the death of one premature baby and the infection of two others with meningitis in the hospital's neonatal unit earlier this year.
The Master of the Rotunda warned that if this situation continues, it is only a matter of time before more babies will get "injured" because more infectious outbreaks will occur.
Speaking ahead of an event at the hospital to celebrate World Prematurity Day, which celebrates premature infants born at the hospital, Professor Malone said that incubators in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are currently kept less than a metre apart when they should be kept at least three metres apart to prevent infection.
He also pointed out that it is impossible to prevent infection when incubators are "squeezed together".
The Rotunda, at 275 years old, is the oldest operating hospital in the world, and the busiest in Ireland, but according to Professor Malone, the hospital is "not suitable for delivering 21st century care" and he explained that around €49 million is required to extend the current NICU.
And despite long-terms plans to co-locate the hospital at Connolly Hospital, Professor Malone explained that this will take ten to 15 years to achieve during which time, 90,000 women will need to be cared for.
The Department of Health said Minister Simon Harris is fully aware of the concerns raised about the Rotunda Hospital, and that the minister has met with the Master of the Rotunda to discuss the situation.