As a fellow surgeon fights for life after a “one-punch” assault, a Melbourne neurosurgeon who almost died after being stabbed on the job three years ago has slammed a lack of safety improvements for doctors.
Dr Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, who is aged in his 40s, was punched in the head in the foyer of the Box Hill Hospital on Tuesday, reportedly after complaining about smoking near the hospital entrance.
Joseph Esmaili, 22, from Mill Park in Melbourne’s north, has faced the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court charged with intentionally causing serious injury. He did not apply for bail.
Police allege Esmaili knocked Dr Pritzwald-Stegmann unconscious before fleeing the scene.
Neurosurgeon Dr Michael Wong was almost killed when he was stabbed while working at Western General Hospital in Footscray in 2014.
Like Dr Pritzwald-Stegmann, he was attacked in the foyer. He had arrived for work and was confronted by a mentally ill man who had delusions Dr Wong had botched his recent surgery.
Last year, he raised concerns about the lack of security and protection for staff at hospitals, and has again questioned why it has not been improved.
“What is most tragic, and what really cuts deep in me, is this attack at Box Hill Hospital happened in almost identical circumstances to what happened to me three years ago,” he said.
“What has been done to protect hospital staff three years on?
“Hospital staff are precious resources. Yet this sort of attack highlights that the hospital environment is not a safe environment, and more security measures need to be in place.”
Dr Wong said he was not calling for “airport security”, but basic measures like guards in public areas, separate entrances for hospital staff and areas that required security passes.
9NEWS reports the German-born surgeon’s two children are among family members keeping vigil in the intensive care unit. The family has asked the media to respect their privacy during their anguished bedside hours.
Esmaili’s lawyer told the court her client was a drug addict and had a number of “psychiatric illnesses”, for which he had been prescribed medication.
“He’s currently withdrawing from a drug dependence,” the defence lawyer told the magistrate.
Esmaili faced court in handcuffs after he was arrested yesterday and charged with intentionally causing injury to the surgeon.
An Eastern Health spokeswoman confirmed Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann’s family has requested privacy after the “terrible incident”.
The Australian Medical Association condemned the alleged attack, saying violence has become a common occurrence in hospitals.
-with ABC and AAP