SHE may have been tasked with running the busiest maternity hospital in the country, but the newly appointed master still had to knock on the front door before being allowed in.
Mother-of-four Dr Rhona Mahony took up the post yesterday as Ireland's first female master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St and admitted that running the hospital in a time of budget cuts would be a "huge challenge".
But before getting down to the hard work of running a hospital that welcomes almost 10,000 babies to the world each year, she took part in the traditional 'Knock on the Door' ceremony.
The 41-year-old arrived to the ceremony in style wearing a pale hand-beaded skirt suit that had been specially made for the occasion and which was finished in the nick of time at 11pm the night before.
She knocked on the door of the hospital and received a huge round of applause from waiting family and friends and was formally greeted and admitted into the hospital by director of midwifery Mary Brosnan.
Waiting for her inside was proud husband Daragh Fagan and the couple's four young children. Dr Mahony is more qualified than most to hold the position of master at the maternity hospital as all of her children -- Sarah (11), Lorna (13), Daragh (5) and Hugh (4) -- were delivered there.
The filling of the new position comes as the Irish Independent revealed documents last week that showed how mothers and babies faced significant risks in the country's main maternity hospitals, which are struggling to cope with overcrowding and outdated facilities.
Dr Mahony said managing numbers at the hospital would be a huge challenge.
"As we all know, resources are quite diminished at the moment, and that's a problem for all of us in the country," she said. "In addition, we are at our busiest, so it is a huge challenge just managing the numbers, but obviously I want to see the services continue to develop."
She also acknowledged the National Maternity Hospital's building was not ideal.
"Our infrastructure is a big problem for us. This is a very old building. It's not custom-built for 2012.
"It's always a problem for us and we will just have to do our best with the infrastructure, but it is difficult for us and it's certainly a big challenge."
Dr Mahony said she would be hitting the ground running and in the coming months would focus on developing community midwifery services, developing gynaecology and developing research.
"Every single service might be affected by funding issues. We have to look all the time at how we can be more efficient and how we can develop the best service possible," she said.
"People can be reassured that patients come first, safety comes first and we will continue to be absolutely committed to delivering babies safely."
After the ceremony, the new master greeted the first baby born in the hospital this year. Little Elsie Anne Tumulty was born 26 minutes after midnight yesterday weighing 6lb 8oz. Dr Mahony congratulated new mum Nikki Mitchell and dad Ian Tumulty on their new arrival and told them she would always remember Elsie's birthday each year.
Dr Mahony is the 17th master and the first female master since the foundation of the hospital in 1894.
The National Maternity Hospital is the busiest maternity hospital in the country with a record 9,756 deliveries taking place in 2010, resulting in the birth of 9,957 children or the equivalent of one in eight of children born in the State.
Dr Mahony is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and specialist in foetal and maternal medicine. She is an expert in clinical research and has been published in a range of international academic journals.
Niall Doyle, deputy chairman of the board of governors of the hospital said he was delighted to welcome Dr Mahony as the new master of the hospital and said she was "outstandingly qualified" to carry out the job.
He also thanked Dr Mahony's predecessor Dr Mike Robson for his substantial contribution to the development of the hospital over the past seven years.