Killed surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann's widow is suing a major health service for failing to keep him safe at work.
Killed surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann's widow is suing a major health service for failing to keep him safe at work.

Surgeon’s widow sues heath service over one-punch death

The wife of a respected heart surgeon killed in a coward's punch attack has launched legal action against the hospital where he was killed, claiming they failed in their duty to protect him.

Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, 41, died one month after he was punched in the head by Joseph Esmaili in the foyer of the Box Hill Hospital in May 2017.

Christine Baumberg is suing Eastern Health, claiming the hospital failed to keep her husband safe at work despite a history of incidents of aggression in the three years before the deadly assault. Esmaili delivered the fatal blow after the esteemed doctor had told him and his friends to stop smoking outside the hospital entrance.

Surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann. Picture: Yuri Kouzmin
Surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann. Picture: Yuri Kouzmin

 

Christine Baumberg, wife of Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann. Picture: AAP
Christine Baumberg, wife of Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann. Picture: AAP

The father-of-two suffered head injuries and died weeks later, with his family enduring the "uncertainty and distress" of a month-long coma. 

Esmaili last year became the first Victorian sentenced under one-punch laws and is currently serving a minimum 10 years behind bars.

In a Supreme Court writ obtained by the Herald Sun, Ms Baumberg - who is also claiming damages on behalf of the couple's twin daughters, aged 8 - detailed a long list of instances of alleged negligence, including a lack of security and failure to help her husband when he was in a position of danger.

Ms Baumberg also claims the hospital did not provide adequate training in "Code Grey" procedures or how to de-escalate violence and failed to enforce the no-smoking policy in or around the hospital.

The family have suffered anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the death of Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann, the court documents allege. Following the sentencing of Esmaili last year, Ms Baumberg said her husband was killed while trying to help others.

"Patrick was brutally and fatally assaulted protecting Box Hill Hospital patients, visitors and colleagues," she said.

"He should have been safe at work."

 

Joseph Esmaili last year became the first Victorian sentenced under one-punch laws.
Joseph Esmaili last year became the first Victorian sentenced under one-punch laws.

Ms Baumberg said Patrick was "first and foremost, a loving father and husband" as well as a dedicated heart and lung surgeon who spent his days dealing with the harmful effects of smoking.

She called on the Victorian government to ensure hospitals provide a safe workplace for all staff and properly enforce smoking bans.

Eastern Health chief executive David Plunkett said Patrick's tragic death had deeply impacted the hospital and wider community.
"This was a terrible incident and we again extend our deepest condolences to his wife and family," Mr Plunkett said.

Earlier this year, Esmaili, now 24, lost an appeal in a bid to reduce his mandatory 10-year sentence. He was on bail at the time of the attack and had been convicted of more than 40 offences in the previous year.

genevieve.alison@news.com.au

Originally published as Surgeon's widow sues Eastern Health over one-punch death



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