Cork University Maternity Hospital says a review is underway, after baby organs were incinerated without the knowledge or consent of bereaved parents.
The South/South West Hospital Group, CUH and CUMH have apologised to the 18 families of those whose organs had been retained by the hospital and were sent for incineration, instead of being buried or cremated as had been agreed.
"The group deeply regret that this distressing incident occurred and acknowledge that a serious error was made, and are truly sorry for the additional distress this has caused to grieving families", it says in a statement.
It says management became aware of the incident in late April 2020, and all parents who were affected were contacted and full disclosure took place on two days in early May that year.
"Recognising that it would be difficult for bereaved parents to be told about the incident, Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) volunteered to take the lead role in openly disclosing the error and apologising to the parents", the group says.
"The supports of the CUMH bereavement and pregnancy loss team has been and remains in place to provide ongoing contact, care and support as required by the parents. This has been provided not only as a result of the incident but also in acknowledgement of the impact of the delay in the review process."
It adds that this incident was confined to baby organs, which were stored in the hospital mortuary between May 2019 and March 2020.
While the incineration occurred on two occasions: March 25th and April 2nd 2020.
It says hospitals were preparing to significantly increase space in their mortuaries for potential mass fatalities due to the pandemic.
"In March 2020 it was widely reported that healthcare expert epidemiologists were predicting there could be between 80,000 and 100,000 deaths in Ireland from COVID-19", the hospital says.
The incident came to light following an RTÉ Investigates report, which says the organs were sent to Belgium for incineration.
Cork University Hospital also commissioned an external expert review of the incident in May last year.
But the hospital says there were "significant delays" in the review process, most notably in getting the appropriate external expertise that the review required.
However the review did begin in late April this year, and is expected to be completed in late October or early November.
The hospital group adds that all baby organs retained since the dates in question have been buried, so there is no possibility other families are affected.