Premature babies are to benefit from a new medical network linking hospitals in Dublin, Drogheda and Cavan which will optimise services for infants.
About 15,000 babies a year are delivered in the area where three hospitals have come together to set up the new Dublin North East Neonatal Network.
In future, all babies born before the mother is 27 weeks into her pregnancy will automatically be taken to the Rotunda hospital in Dublin city centre which has the most up-to-date facilities for premature infants.
The network links the Rotunda with Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and Cavan General Hospital.
The three sites have agreed new clinical guidelines and common protocols for the treatment of newborns, particularly those born before full term.
Dr Sam Coulter Smith, master of the Rotunda Hospital, has described the network as "a real step forward for the quality of care that premature babies receive in the north east region".
"It's a really good example of hospitals working together in a group."
The aim is to ensure that premature babies will have a similar standard of care and be delivered at the "optimal location for their immediate and ongoing care".
Doctors and midwives will work together so that, where a premature birth is anticipated, the mother will be transferred before the birth to the Rotunda.
Infants between 27 and 30 weeks born in Cavan, will be transferred to Drogheda for initial care and returned to Cavan for the rest of their treatment.
Dr Alan Finan, Clinical Director, Women and Children's Services in the north east said: "This model of care is recognised internationally as the best way to manage prematurity."
The Network, represented "a major change in our current practice".