The Health Service Executive has apologised to the family of a 36-year-old woman who died shortly after giving birth almost five years ago.

Tracey Campbell Fitzpatrick, who was originally from Knock in Co Mayo and had been living in Co Carlow, died in the early hours of Easter Monday, 28 March 2016, after giving birth to her second child Max, at St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny.

The HSE and the hospital today offered an unreserved apology for the failings in her care.

The High Court heard she had suffered from massive blood loss after her baby Max was delivered in the early hours of the morning.

A consultant obstetrician Dr David McMurray was called to the hospital but shortly after he arrived Ms Campbell Fitzpatrick went into cardiac arrest and despite efforts to resuscitate her for 70 minutes, she was pronounced dead less than three hours after giving birth.

An inquest in 2017 returned a verdict that death was by natural causes in line with the medical evidence, which said she had a condition known as an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE).

However the family disputed this evidence and sued the HSE.

Their lawyers told the High Court today that a leading medical expert in their case said the cause of death was not AFE as suggested by the hospital.

It had always been their contention that if an earlier intervention had been made Tracey Campbell Fitzpatrick's death could have been prevented.

Senior Counsel Aonghus Ó Brolchain said the HSE had now admitted liability and apologised to the Campbell and Fitzpatrick families.

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Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved a settlement of €700,000 for the past and future care of Ms Campbell Fitzpatrick's son Max, who was described as a happy, healthy young boy who is being cared for by his father.

The statutory sum of €35,000 in cases of wrongful death is to be divided between her two sons.

A separate settlement was reached on behalf of her son Jamie who is now 18. The financial details of that settlement did not need to be disclosed to or approved by the court because he is now an adult.

An apology read in court on behalf of hospital manager Ann Slattery said the HSE and St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny would like to "express an unreserved apology to you and your family for the failings in the care afforded to your late daughter, mother and sister, Tracey at this hospital on March 28th 2016.

"I further apologise for the distress experienced by your family as a result of this tragic loss. I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to you and to your family on behalf of the staff of St Luke's General Hospital, Kilkenny.

"We understand that this apology cannot negate the adverse affect that the loss of your daughter, mother and sister has had on all your lives, for which we are truly sorry."

After today's settlement Ms Campbell Fitzpatrick's father James Campbell read a statement on behalf of the family which said: "Today, the HSE and St Luke's Hospital have finally admitted the truth of how Tracey died unnecessarily in St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny on the 28th March 2016.

"Tracey died as a result of a massive post-partum haemorrhage that was neglected and mismanaged by the staff members in charge of her care who failed to recognise her developing condition and failed to take appropriate action in a timely manner to prevent her unnecessary death.

"This will not bring our Tracey back to us but at least we have uncovered the truth. We owe the truth to Tracey's sons, Jamie and Max, to her grieving husband Bernard, to us, Tracey's parents and her siblings, but most of all to the memory of a fantastic mother, wife, daughter and sister.

"The HSE and the hospital have put us through hell for the past five years in our fight for this truth. They have denied the truth, defended the indefensible and delayed the progress of our legal battle every step of the way until finally they were faced with overwhelming evidence they could defend no longer. The truth is all that matters now.

"It is our hope that the HSE have learned from the horrendous failings in Tracey's care, to ensure greater patient safety in the Irish maternity services."

He also thanked the family solicitor Sinead Harrington for her "support along the way" and "in bringing the quest for truth to a successful conclusion".

He added: "The sincerity of an apology can be measured by the willingness to express it, the length of time it takes to decide to give it and the manner in which it is delivered.

"What we got today was a more reluctant admission of wrongdoing disguised as an apology."

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross expressed his sympathy to the Campbell and Fitzpatrick families and said nothing could replace the loss of Tracey.

However, he hoped they were happy in the knowledge that what happened had been acknowledged by the defendants in a formal apology and in a financial way in so far as the law allowed.

He said the law placed a cap on financial awards in cases such as this.