FOUR babies died in similar circumstances in the same hospital in six years – but a key safety recommendation was only acted on in recent weeks.
The babies, who were born in Portlaoise Hospital maternity unit between 2006 and 2012, were alive at the onset of labour but died either during labour or within seven days of birth.
Questions were raised about failures to properly monitor foetal distress during their mothers' labour and an inappropriate use of the drug syntocinon to speed up the labour. This drug can lead to the baby suffering further damage by causing contractions that reduce the oxygen supply.
Although a number of reviews were carried out following the tragedies, a key recommendation to introduce foetal blood sampling only started at the maternity unit two-and-a-half weeks ago.
The infant deaths were the focus of a documentary on RTE last night.
The programme said that, despite the deaths, lessons were not learned and recommendations from reviews were not followed up.
The programme revealed the first of these deaths involved an unnamed baby in 2006 and the second involved the death of Nathan Molyneaux, from Tullamore in Co Offaly in 2008.
A third baby was involved in a similar "near miss" in 2009. In the same year, baby Joshua Keyes, from Co Laois, died an hour after being delivered to his mother Shauna.
In 2012, Mark Molloy died in the same hospital after staff failed to properly monitor his mother Roisin's labour and again gave her syntocinon.
Mrs Molloy and her husband Mark, from Kilcavan, Co Offaly, have since led a campaign to find answers about why their baby died after first being told he was a still birth.
An inquest held late last year found there was death by misadventure and the coroner called for national guidelines to be drawn on the administration of syntocinon.
The programme looked back at how Nathan Molyneaux died in July 2008, 15 months before Joshua Keyes, and three-and-a-half years before Mark Molloy.
The hospital reviewed the the death of baby Nathan but never informed his mother Natasha that the report was carried out. A review of baby Joshua, complete with a recommendation on the introduction of foetal blood testing, was completed nine weeks before the death of baby Mark but not followed up.
Baby Joshua's mother Shauna only found out four months ago – four years after her baby's death – that a review into his care was carried out by the hospital. The report was completed two years ago.
Roisin and Mark Molloy said last night they believed their baby would be alive today if the failures uncovered in the deaths of the other babies had been followed up.
"They have failed Mark dreadfully," said the baby's father.
Shauna Keyes told of the emotional toll her baby's death had had on her, until she read the review report into his care. "I blamed myself and convinced myself I could not carry babies," she said.
Dr Philip Crowley, head of patient safety in the HSE, said the failure to inform women that a report had been carried out on their baby's deaths was inexcusable.
However, he said the cases were isolated and a poor outcome from judgments made at a particular point in time in a busy obstetrics unit.