Dr Charlie Teo, leading Australian brain surgeon. Picture: SBS
Dr Charlie Teo, leading Australian brain surgeon. Picture: SBS

Charlie Teo threatens to quit

LEADING Australian brain surgeon Charlie Teo has threatened to walk away from medicine in the wake of an ongoing feud with other senior medical figures who have criticised him for accepting six-figure sums raised for cancer patients through crowd-funding.

In an interview with The Sunday Age, Dr Teo said that if "the distractions become too great" and it affects his ability to look after his patients, "I will call it quits".

He said the medical establishment was "gunning" for him and trying to carry out "a purge" against him.

Dr Charlie Teo and patient Nate Moule from Mareeba. Picture: Supplied
Dr Charlie Teo and patient Nate Moule from Mareeba. Picture: Supplied

"They are vilifying and persecuting me saying that I am nothing but a self-promoter," Dr Teo told The Age.

"Once they see blood they go for it. When the distractions become too great and I can't give my patients what they deserve, I will call it quits.

"They will eventually get me. I know that sounds a bit fatalistic but I think it is probably true. A lot of good people have gone down to the system."

Describing himself as "the best tumour surgeon in Australia", Dr Teo, 61, said it was his right to set whatever fees he thought appropriate.

 

Dr Charlie Teo in March at the Sydney Skinny, an annual nude harbour swim to raise money for the Charlie Teo Foundation in support of brain cancer research. Picture: AAP
Dr Charlie Teo in March at the Sydney Skinny, an annual nude harbour swim to raise money for the Charlie Teo Foundation in support of brain cancer research. Picture: AAP

 

"I think a doctor can charge whatever he wants. If a doctor charges too much and hasn't got a good reputation people are not going to go to him.

"I don't like being criticised for things that are dishonest. Spine surgeons make so much more money than brain surgeons.

"You wouldn't be in brain surgery for the money."

He urged his colleagues to unite against "the greater enemy ... the governing medical bodies".

In the interview, Dr Teo said some hospitals deliberately made life difficult for his patients and drove up their costs.

 

Professor Henry Woo. Picture: Supplied
Professor Henry Woo. Picture: Supplied

In an interview on Today last month, Dr Teo - whose services are in demand worldwide - responded to a tweet from University of Sydney's Professor Henry Woo, who said: "Something is seriously wrong if a terminally ill girl with a brain tumour has to raise $130,000 to have surgery Dr Charlie Teo has offered to do for $60-80,000."

"Let's get our facts straight first," he told interview Georgie Gardner. "The fact is, although some patients do have to pay over $100,000, that doesn't all go to the surgeon or even the team.

"It is in a private hospital, which is accounting to their shareholders. They have to make a profit.

Charlie Teo says he gets $8000 out of a $120,000 bill. Picture: SBS
Charlie Teo says he gets $8000 out of a $120,000 bill. Picture: SBS

"So, for example, that $120,000 bill that Henry Woo is talking about, $80,000 to the private hospital. $40,000 then gets dispersed among not only the surgeon, the assistant, anaesthetist, pathologist, radiologist, radiographer.

"It is not that great an amount to each individual person, when you get your facts straight.

"I got $8000. But it is really not the total amount that each person gets. It is really the fact that people do have to pay for their private healthcare.

"It is a little bit unfair. If I was a child with cancer and in a foreign state who wants the very best care, I think you should be able to be done in the public system.

"But unfortunately if you are done in the public system a few people have swallowed their egos."