Dr Peter Boylan, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital, has said overcrowding and understaffing means a lot of 'near misses' in Irish maternity hospitals.
He told Lunchtime Live that the care offered in these hospitals is 'world class', but stress levels are increasing for doctors, nurses and midwives.
Dr Boylan was speaking after the current master of the Rotunda Hospital told the Irish Times that lives of babies are at risk due to overcrowding at the site.
Dr Boylan said he's not surprised at Prof Fergal Malone's comments.
He told Lunchtime Live: "The main risk to these very small, premature babies is cross-infection... and he described how incubators are just half a metre apart, when they should really be at least a metre apart.
"No matter how high the standards of hygiene, and how hard the nurses and doctors are working... it's very difficult to prevent cross-infection in those circumstances."
Dr Boylan explained that birth numbers in maternity hospitals have gone up "very dramatically", and the hospitals are "very, very large" by European and international standards.
However, he said: "The care that women get and the babies get in these hospitals is absolutely superb, but the staff are put to the pin of their collar.
"There would be a lot of what you might call 'near misses', which are worrying for the staff. The patients may not notice them because things are caught just in time, but that's not really good enough.
"A lot of the problems that happen are a consequence of short staffing, a consequence of overcrowding, and a consequence of locum and not permanent staff."