MIDWIFERY at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise wrote to the ministers for finance and health in 2006 expressing concern over staffing levels at the hospital.
In the letter to then Finance Minister Brian Cowen and then Health Minister Mary Harney, the staff said they had "a real fear" that a mother or baby would die in their care if serious issues were not addressed according to RTÉ's Investigation Unit.
Staff members also said they had notified management on their concerns on a number of occasions but it was not followed up.
The revelation emerges after the Health Minister James Reillyl has called for a report into the tragic deaths of four babies at the Midland Regional Hospital.
The request by Dr James Reilly follows a TV documentary that investigated the deaths at the hospital in Portlaoise which occurred over a six-year period.
The letter was written prior to all of the deaths of babies examined in a report by RTÉ's Investigation Unit 'Fatal Failures' broadcast on Prime Time last night.
The programme, which aired last night, found that the babies all died in similar circumstances and that there was a failure to implement the findings of a report into one of the deaths.
A senior figure in the HSE "apologised unreservedly" to the families if any of the agency's actions had added to their grief.
Dr Philip Crowley, the National Director of Quality and Patient Safety, told the Prime Time Show: "I absolutely regret if any actions that we've taken in how we've either undertaken the investigations or dealt with the reports has added to people's grief and I apologise unreservedly for that."
The programme, which aired last night, found that the babies were alive at the onset of labour, but died either during labour or within seven days of birth.
There were no 'congenital abnormalities' in any of the cases identified and found that other factors had led to the four deaths.
The Prime Time show found the HSE and the hospital failed to implement the recommendations and that such changes to patient care may have saved the lives of the three other babies who died in similar circumstances.