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“Let’s get our facts straight”: Surgeon’s tense clash with Georgie Gardner

“Let’s get our facts straight”: Surgeon’s tense clash with Georgie Gardner

One of Australia’s most acclaimed and reputable medics, neurosurgeon Charlie Teo has come face to face with Georgie Gardner in a tense interview on the Today show this morning.

He appeared on the show to set the record straight, after users on Twitter criticised Dr Teo for his hefty costs forcing many of his patients to use crowdfunding services so they can afford the surgery.

Gardner started off the interview by quoting Henry Woo, a professor from the University of Sydney, who was the catalyst of the social media storm that erupted.

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.”

Gardner then began her line of questioning as she asked the doctor to provide answers as to why his life changing surgery is not covered by Medicare and the public hospital system.

However, the interview took a drastic turn as Dr Teo took the reigns and told Gardner to get her “facts straight”. He then went into detail about where the money goes.

“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 …”

Carrying on, Gardner then pressed into how much Dr Teo would receive after completing the surgery.

“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 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.”

He claimed that a “centre of excellence” can operate on patients from interstate free of charge in the public system.

“But, to be called a centre of excellence you need at least three or four neurosurgeons to say that, that doctor is doing something different to us and that is not going to happen,” he said.

The neurosurgeon also revealed how he offers surgery at no cost to the patient if they are unable to cover the sum or don’t have private health insurance.

“They have two options,” he said. “They come to the private system in NSW and get done privately where they have to pay.

“Or I say to them, ‘Listen, if you can get your neurosurgeon from your state to invite me to your hospital, I will operate free of charge in the public system with benefits not only to you but will benefit hopefully the whole neurosurgical community where they can learn my techniques’. Have I ever been taken off on that offer? Never.

“All they need to do is swallow their ego.”

According to Dr Teo, it’s that same ego that started the fiery Twitter feud.

 “The whole Twitter thing is all about trying to destroy or discredit my reputation,” he said. “I would say to that person, ‘Listen, there is a lot better things to do we should be doing as doctors rather than trolling through websites looking for ways to discredit a colleague’.

“Get back to your lab, try and find a cure for prostate cancer. I will try and find a cure for brain cancer, thank you.”

Dr John Quinn, the TACS executive director of surgical affairs said that patients should not have to resort to crowdfunding to be able to afford treatments.

"The College of Surgeons is not in favour of patients funding treatments by GoFundMe or other means like re-mortgaging their homes and accessing funds from their superannuation," he said.

"If urgent treatment is required, all of these treatments are available in a public hospital at no cost.