Attack after 11pm hospital discharge

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 07/01/2014
German tourist Soenke

OUT OF THE BLUE: German tourist Soenke was attacked on the street after a late-night hospital discharge.

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An unwell German tourist was attacked and robbed on the street after Christchurch Hospital staff refused him a bed for the night.

The 20-year-old had arrived in an ambulance from Kaikoura last Friday evening and was treated and discharged about 11pm.

Soenke, who did not want his surname used, said his doctor in Kaikoura felt his eye infection required urgent specialist treatment.

Soenke said he was then told by a hospital doctor his condition did not warrant an overnight stay. He was prescribed eye medication and told to stay in a nearby hostel.

Finding the recommended hostel full and unable to find alternative accommodation, Soenke returned to the hospital's emergency department, but was again forbidden from sleeping in the waiting room.

"It was dark. I had all my stuff. I was alone. It was not that good. Christchurch is empty at night. There is no-one," he said.

He went to the Lichfield St bus exchange, where he was attacked about 1.30am while using the free wi-fi to Skype-call his parents. His parents heard his screams as three men punched and kicked him.

"I lay on the ground and they kicked me just for fun. One kicked me in the face."

The men stole his laptop, cellphone and his bag and its contents, including gifts and his passport.

The attack left him sore and bleeding from the lips and knee, but otherwise uninjured.

He found help at The Club nearby. Security guards phoned police, who arrived about 30 minutes later.

Soenke said he left the police station about 5.15am, convincing the officers to escort him back to Christchurch Hospital and request permission for him to sleep in the emergency waiting room for a couple of hours. That time the request was granted. He left about 7am.

A Christchurch Hospital spokesman could not respond to Soenke's experience yesterday, but said to keep a patient in a hospital bed overnight cost more than $500, depending on the care required.

A patient's stay had to be medically justified, even if they were prepared to pay, he said.

Detective Sergeant Joel Syme said investigators would review security footage from the bus exchange area in a bid to identify the attackers.

"I certainly don't think it is commonplace in Christchurch," Syme said of the attack.

Soenke said he wished he had refused to leave the hospital the first time.

"Maybe they would have phoned police and maybe I would have had to go to jail for 24 hours, but that would have been better than staying the night alone in Christchurch," he said.

He was also disappointed the hostel receptionist refused his request to sleep on a couch and did not offer to call other hostels.

Soenke said the "very bad night" was his only negative experience during five months in New Zealand. He hitch-hiked back to Kaikoura on Saturday.

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- The Press

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