A police complaint has been made after the unexpected death of a newborn in Auckland City Hospital.

Theo Ilich's death in the early hours of May 10 has also been referred to the Coroner, and his parents have complained to police and the Health & Disability Commissioner.

Read more: 'You just play through it all in your head': Family go to police over baby's death

Karl Ilich wasn't allowed to stay the night his son died because of Covid restrictions. His wife, Joanne Rimmer, fell asleep with Theo in an incubator beside her, where he was being treated for jaundice.

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A nurse tube-fed Theo - who was born at 35 weeks, late on May 7 - and went on a break, and when she returned she found him unresponsive.

His parents allege a raft of problems over Joanne's hospital stay, including a lack of observations and monitoring, and claim Theo's arms were restrained by bandages on the night he died.

Karl Ilich and Joanne Rimmer's newborn son Theo Illich, died at Auckland City Hospital. Photo / Michael Craig
Karl Ilich and Joanne Rimmer's newborn son Theo Illich, died at Auckland City Hospital. Photo / Michael Craig

Doctors initially assumed Theo could have suffocated after regurgitating his feed. However, there was no liquid in his lungs and the cause of death is as yet undetermined.

The tragedy comes amid a separate investigation ordered after four women died during or soon after pregnancy this year. Three of the deaths happened after level 3 restrictions began on March 23.

One maternal death was recorded in the previous three years. Hospital bosses say all women had one-on-one care and the causes don't appear to be related, but it's important to identify if there are any systemic problems.

Theo's death won't be included in that review because it involves different hospital services, the DHB says.

"We are fully investigating the care that was given to Theo with a panel that includes an external reviewer. We have met with the family and have offered them independent support, and will be meeting with them again to share the report from the review and answer their questions," Auckland DHB director of midwifery Deborah Pittam said.

Tying a baby for the purposes of restraint "is not within our nursing and midwifery practice guidelines", Pittam said, and an initial review had found staffing numbers were adequate on the postnatal ward caring for Theo.

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Detective Inspector Uraia Vakaruru, of Auckland City police, confirmed a complaint had been received, and police were investigating on behalf of the coroner.

"As we are in the early stages of our investigation we are unable to comment further."