Renowned Australian brain surgeon, Charlie Teo, has threatened to walk away from medicine following the ongoing spat with senior surgical figures questioning the costs of his surgery prices.
Speaking to the Sunday Age, Dr Teo said that if the “distractions become too great”, effecting his ability to give his patients what they deserve, he “will call it quits”.
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Dr Teo is known for performing surgery on patients other surgeons have deemed inoperable, but since being embroiled in a spat with fellow surgeons, Dr Teo has said the medical establishment is “gunning for him”.
“There are times when you just have to bend over and take it up the arse,” claiming the past week had been the most “relentless and vicious” he had ever experienced.
“They will eventually get me,” he told the publication.
“A lot of good people have gone down to the system.”
After Dr Teo’s six-figure prices were scrutinised by a University of Sydney professor of surgery Henry Woo on Twitter, the 61-year-old surgeon said he had the right to set whatever price he thought appropriate.
“I think a doctor can charge whatever he wants,” he said.
“If a doctor charges too much and hasn’t got a good reputation people aren’t going to go to him.”
In the interview, Dr Teo said certain hospitals purposefully drove up the costs for his patients, claiming the governing bodies were carrying out ‘a purge’ against independent physicians.
Coming off the back of the Twitter storm, in which other senior medical figures criticised the surgeon for accepting six-figure sums raised for cancer patients through crowd-funding to pay for his services, Dr Teo responded to Prof Woo’s tweet in a scathing interview with Today host Georgie Gardner.
Prof Woo tweeted: “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.
“If it was valid surgery, it could/should be performed in the public system under Medicare.”
Prof Woo said he found it “disturbing” how many crowd-funding campaigns mentioned Dr Teo’s name.
Gardner pressed Dr Teo, asking him to explain why, if he’s offering a valid procedure, the surgery isn’t covered by Medicare and the public hospital system.
However, Dr Teo, clearly unimpressed with the line of questions, took a swipe at Gardner, telling her to get “facts straight”.
“Let’s get our facts straight first,” he said. “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.
“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 …”
Unflustered, Gardner continued by asking how much Dr Teo would receive personally in that circumstance.
“I got $ 8000,” he said. “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 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.”