INDEPENDENT experts are to investigate if a delay in performing an emergency Caesarean section on a woman whose baby was in distress contributed to the child's death.
A probe has been launched into the tragic death of the baby at the maternity unit in Cavan General Hospital on Saturday April 26.
It is understood that the mother, who was admitted to the hospital, had developed complications on the Saturday evening which required a Caesarean section to allow the baby to be delivered as quickly as possible.
An investigation team, which is to include outside experts, will have to determine if the time it took to get the woman to theatre on the Saturday was a factor in the baby's death.
It is believed that the delay could have been more than an hour.
A senior doctor who works in the hospital is now on administrative leave, although no adverse findings have been made against the medic.
The HSE confirmed that a "clinical incident" occurred in which a baby sadly died.
A spokeswoman said the HSE Incident Management policy is being followed and a "full and thorough investigation" into the tragic event is under way.
She said the hospital extended its deepest sympathy to the family.
"Hospital management has met with the family and will continue to keep them informed of the ongoing management of the incident investigation."
The spokeswoman said the grieving family has requested privacy and has asked the media not to contact them at this difficult and distressing time.
The investigation team will also examine a range of other issues, including hospital guidelines, staffing levels and operating theatre availability.
Sinn Fein TD for Cavan- Monaghan Caoimhghin O Caolain said it was important that the investigation be allowed carry out its work and secure a full and factual account.
"While this tragic incident cannot be reversed, it is important that lessons are learned," he added.
Monaghan Cllr Paudge Connolly welcomed the announcement of the HSE investigation, saying: "If people are flat to the max, the risk of this kind of thing is increased."
The latest tragedy follows the concerns raised by the deaths of five babies since 2006 in the maternity unit of Portlaoise Hospital.
All five babies died in similar circumstances at the unit, which was deemed unsafe by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.
An investigation into care and standards at the hospital is now under way while the HSE is doing a national review of midwifery staffing in maternity units.
Cavan hospital's maternity unit was also at the centre of investigation in 2008 after a baby died of "acute near drowning" three days after a natural water birth.
After birth, the baby boy was blue in colour, unresponsive to tactile stimulation and made no efforts to breath on his own.
He was immediately ventilated and was transferred to the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin, later that day.
An inquest was told the baby died from an acute "near drowning" event after inhaling fresh water into his lungs.
The most recent report on perinatal deaths of infants, at or around the time of birth, showed there were 491 such deaths in 2011.
Dr Holohan, in his report on the Portlaoise baby tragedies, published earlier this year said his analysis shows that there are weaknesses and inconsistencies in perinatal data collection, collation and reporting.
"This gives rise to inaccuracies and also to inconsistencies in the data reported – depending on the source used," he added.