An online petition calling for famed brain surgeon Charlie Teo to be allowed to perform live-saving procedures in Australian public hospitals has attracted more than 110,000 signatures in a matter of days.
Teo recently made headlines after the family of a 12-year-old with a brain tumour set a crowdfunding target of $100,000 to cover the $120,000 required for Teo to operate on the child in a private hospital. Amelia ‘Millie’ Lucas was told by doctors in her home state of Western Australia that there was nothing more they could do for her, leading the family to travel interstate and pay for Teo’s services.
Speaking on Perth 6PR radio with Jane Marwick on Sunday, the surgeon said he didn’t “think it was right” that patients from interstate were forced to pay to receive his services in another state and that health professionals were thinking of their egos, rather than patients.
He even claimed that he’s been offering to operate free-of-charge in Western Australia for decades if his flights and accommodation were paid for, but hospitals are yet to take him up on his offer.
“I’ve been offering that for 20 years now. I’ve never been taken up on the offer,” he said. “I’ve made that offer every week, in every clinic, to every non-funded, non-insured patient. They refuse to do that.”
Teo claimed that federally-funded centres would get around this problem but that egos in medicine won’t allow that to happen. This means patients are forced to seek private treatment in other locations as a result or fly surgeons to their location to operate in the public system — which Teo hasn’t been offered to do.
His charging methods have come under fire from the likes of the Australian Medical Association, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and Health Minister Greg Hunt – who earlier this week issued a warning to health specialists who charge patients excessive fees for surgeries.
In a statement issued to The Age, Hunt expressed his concern that a small number of Australian specialists were charging excessive fees to some patients requiring life-changing surgery, so much so that it caused them significant financial harm or to rely on crowdfunding to cover medical costs. He said that out-of-pocket costs incurred during private hospital treatment need to be “modest, justifiable and proportionate to the circumstances of the patient”.
Now, an online Change.org petition targeting Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan and Western Australian Deputy Premier Roger Cook has been launched, asking for Teo to be allowed to perform surgeries across Australia’s public hospitals.
The petition calls Teo a “medical genius” who is “vilified by his peers in Australia”.
“At present he has not been invited to operate in any public hospitals in Australia, so those that need his expertise have to pay to go into a private hospital,” the petition set up by Val Gilbert reads. “It’s time the government who are paying all these doctors told them to get their egos in check & not only invite Charlie to their hospital but learn from him. It’s time for the people of Australia to back Charlie Teo.”
Gilbert explains that she lost a sister to a brain tumour and while they contacted Teo for help, she couldn’t stop her seizures long enough to travel.
“We need to give them every opportunity which means having the best access to the best medical treatment,” she says
Those who signed the petition have explained their reasons for supporting Teo.
One person wrote: “My Daughter saw Dr Charlie in 2016 and he removed the bulk of her Tumour that Dr’s in Perth didn’t want to touch. Fully support this!”
Another comment read: “His expertise and love of medicine should be available to all Australians.”
A third added: “Charlie Theo is a unique man and surgeon helping cancer victims and families and giving cancer sufferers another chance or more time with their families.”
Teo has threatened to quit if concerns about his fees continue.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services advice.