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Neurosurgeon stabbed in frenzied attack

A neurosurgeon is seriously injured in a dramatic stabbing at the Western Hospital in Footscray. Nine News

PT1M4S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-32xef 620 349

A 48-year-old man has fronted court charged with attempting to murder a respected neurosurgeon who was stabbed at Western Hospital in Footscray on Tuesday morning.

Michael Wong, 43, is head of neurosurgery at Western Hospital where he was stabbed multiple times after entering the foyer of the hospital on Gordon Street, Footscray.

He was dragged to safety before being operated on by his colleagues at the hospital. At 4.15pm he was still being operated on and remained in a serious but stable condition.

Dr Michael Wong performing surgery.

Dr Michael Wong performing surgery.

Dr Wong is also employed at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and operates at Epworth Eastern Hospital and John Fawkner Hospital.

He specialises in brain tumour and spinal surgery.

Kareem Al-Salami, of Sunshine North, briefly appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday afternoon.

Dr Michael Wong is in a serious condition after being stabbed at Western Hospital.

Dr Michael Wong is in a serious condition after being stabbed at Western Hospital.

He is charged with the attempted murder of Dr Wong, intentionally causing serious injury in circumstances of gross violence, and recklessly causing serious injury in circumstances of gross violence.

Mr Al-Salami, dressed in a dark-blue and white rugby shirt and flanked by two guards, sat back in the dock with an arm behind his head.

Defence lawyer Rainer Martini said Mr Al-Salami's first language was Arabic and he had limited English.

But he was aware of the extent and seriousness of the charges, Mr Martini said.

Magistrate Duncan Reynolds ordered that Mr Al-Salami be remanded in custody until returning to court for a committal mention on May 13.

Mr Martini said his client required "a range of different medications", and raised concerns for his mental wellbeing while in remand.

Earlier, police were called to the Western Hospital about 8.30am and allegedly found an armed man who was taken into custody.

Inspector Tony Long said several people had come to the aid of Dr Wong, including medical staff, visitors and security personnel.

He said police were investigating whether Dr Wong and the alleged offender knew each other.

Epworth Eastern acting executive director Malcolm Wells said that Dr Wong was a highly respected member of the hospital's surgical team.

He said staff were shocked and saddened to hear of the alleged attack and sent heartfelt wishes of support to Dr Wong's family and colleagues.

Western Health acting chief executive officer Russell Harrison said the hospital had a security team and some members had been involved in getting the injured surgeon to the emergency department.

He said the staff's thoughts were with the doctor's family.

"The staff have done a remarkable job, as have the individuals who have helped out and we're really proud of the way the staff have responded," he said.

He said the doctors currently treating their colleague would be acting professionally but would no doubt be traumatised.

The hospital remains open.

Police are reviewing footage from closed circuit television of the stabbing.

Mr Harrison said the hospital would conduct an investigation into the incident.

"We will look at all the processes around what we need to do in these sorts of incidences," he said.

He said that serious assaults against staff were "significantly rare" but verbal abuse and other less serious attacks were more common.

Australian Medical Association Victoria president Stephen Parnis said the incident was an example of the "real dangers that hospital and healthcare workers face".

Dr Parnis said health workers were entitled to feel safe at work and called on the state government to introduce promised legislation that would increase penalties for violent crimes committed against health workers.

He said there had been three inquiries into hospital safety in recent years in Victoria yet little had been done.

Data released to Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws in December revealed that there had been more than 100 'code black' - the highest security alert in Victorian hospitals - during a 12-month period from 2011 to 2012, and nearly 14,000 'code grey' calls to respond to aggressive or potentially aggressive behaviour.

Victorian Emergency Physicians Association president Allan Whitehead said the state government needed to provide more funding to enhance security in Victoria’s hospitals.

In 2011, the government backed away from a pre-election promise to fund 120 armed security guards in hospitals after a parliamentary committee found the move could increase violence.

Dr Whitehead said the risks and stress faced by health workers was unacceptable.

"It's not just the really severe [alleged] attacks like today," Dr Whitehead said.

"It's that every day at work it's quite possible that you’ll be abused or threatened by a relative of patients, often more so than patients, and that’s an ongoing stress in a demanding environment.

"Whether it's lower levels of harassment and intimidation and violence or a major [alleged] attack like today, the issue is still the same - you want to feel protected, you want to feel safe."

He said he was particularly concerned that smaller hospitals with emergency departments did not have adequate security. 

with Nick Toscano, Kate Hagan