Heart surgeon dies after one-punch attack

A cardiothoracic surgeon has died a month after he was allegedly assaulted in a vicious one-punch attack.

Dr Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, 41, was in intensive care for four weeks following the alleged attack outside Box Hill Hospital, in Melbourne, but tragically died late on Tuesday night.

The respected surgeon and father-of-two was leaving the hospital where he worked when he became involved in an altercation with a man.

It is believed he had asked the man to stop smoking near the hospital entrance.

Police have charged 22-year-old Mill Park man Joseph Esmaili with intentionally causing serious injury in relation to the incident.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said homicide detectives would now oversee the investigation.

“The investigation remains with Whitehorse Crime Investigation Unit under the oversight of the Homicide Squad. Investigators will now await the results of a post mortem before reviewing charges,” she said.

Based at the Epworth Eastern hospital at Box Hill, Dr Pritzwald-Stegmann was a cardiothoracic surgeon at a number of hospitals in Melbourne, including Box Hill Hospital, Epworth Eastern, Austin Hospital and Northern Hospital.

He specialised in minimally invasive surgery for complex lung resection and surgery of the mediastinum and had practiced in Europe’s largest cardiothoracic centres.

Eastern Health’s chief executive Adjunct Professor David Plunkett said his work was “truly outstanding”.

“Patrick was a passionate patient advocate, a generous teacher and had particular skill in thoracic surgery,” he told the limbic.

“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.”

Victorian health minister Jill Hennessy paid tribute to Dr Pritzwald-Stegmann as a “fine father, husband and surgeon” whose contribution made for a better health system and community.

“Our compassion and care is now with his loved ones and friends enduring this devastation and heartbreak. So too it is with those that worked alongside him at Box Hill Hospital and, indeed, all of those across our health system who considered Patrick a colleague,” she said.

Following the attack in May, AMA Victoria president Dr Lorraine Barker said that violence towards healthcare workers is a common occurrence.

“Under no circumstances is it OK for a patient or a visitor to abuse, threaten or assault a hospital worker,” she said. “But it is a terrible reality, and sometimes a regular occurrence for those who work in hospital emergency departments and on the wards.

She said the association and its members would work with the Victorian Government, the medical colleges and other groups improve measures to protect the safety of healthcare workers.

“Verbal abuse, threatening and aggressive behaviour, and physical assault by patients or hospital visitors is a common occurrence and this must end.

“Healthcare workers are entitled to work in a safe environment. You should be able to turn up to work and not be abused, threatened or assaulted. Violence and aggression towards healthcare workers must stop.”

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