A Melbourne heart surgeon has died a month after he was allegedly punched outside a hospital after telling someone to stop smoking.
Police and Eastern Health confirmed on Wednesday that “decent and genuine” cardiothoracic surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann had died overnight.
The 41-year-old father of twins was allegedly hit in full view of CCTV cameras at the entrance of Box Hill Hospital, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, about four weeks ago and was rushed to the trauma centre at The Alfred hospital.
Dr Pritzwald-Stegmann’s family said it was “devastated” by his passing.
“We are grateful for the compassion and support we have received from friends, colleagues and the broader community over recent weeks,” the family said in a statement.
“During this difficult time we ask that we are given the space and privacy we need.”
Mill Park man Joseph Esmaili, 22, has been charged with intentionally and recklessly causing serious injury in relation to the incident and has been remanded in custody.
Police allege the surgeon was hit in the face and fell to the ground unconscious.
A police spokeswoman said the investigation would now be overseen by homicide detectives, in light of the death, and they will consider whether or not the charges against Mr Esmaili will be upgraded.
“Investigators will now await the results of a post-mortem before reviewing charges,” she said.
Eastern Health said Dr Pritzwald-Stegmann was the father of twin girls and an admired member of the senior staff will leave a lasting legacy as a “decent human being”.
“Patrick was a passionate patient advocate, a generous teacher and had particular skill in thoracic surgery,” chief executive David Plunkett said in a statement.
“His work was truly outstanding and his commitment and dedication will be sorely missed by his colleagues, friends and patients.
“Patrick not only leaves a lasting legacy as a surgeon but as a decent and genuine human being dedicated to the wellbeing of others.”
Dr Pritzwald-Stegman emigrated from Germany to New Zealand where he completed his medical degree at Otago University, in Dunedin, in 2002.
He later moved to Australia and worked at several other hospitals in Melbourne including the Austin, the Northern, Warringal Private and Epworth Eastern.
He was a “fine father, husband and surgeon” whose contribution made for a better health system and community, Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said.
“Our compassion and care is now with his loved ones and friends enduring this devastation and heartbreak,” she said in a statement.
– with AAP