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The truth behind the vilification of neurosurgeon Professor Charlie Teo

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Professor Charlie Teo AM (Screenshot via YouTube)

Professor Charlie Teo has received unfair criticism from a fellow medical professional and now also members of the press, writes Don Kane.

THE ATTEMPTS TO SMEAR health professionals whatever their profession are deplorable. This has been a feature of this sector of the workforce over the last four decades and is becoming more common. There is a multitude of victims who have been targeted and one is Professor Charlie Teo AM, a neurosurgeon, who is recognised internationally for his expertise.

The Australian newspaper was the vehicle for the most recent attack. An article featured on the front page reported allegations by a urologist — it appeared that Professor Teo was the sole beneficiary of funds raised to meet the cost of surgery on a patient.

The motives of the accuser are known only to him. He could have attempted to contact  Professor Teo to discuss his concern which would have been professional, collegiate and ethical. He would have found that there were no grounds for him to proceed as he did. The Australian would have served their readers better by doing likewise to obtain the true facts. This would have avoided misleading the readers and the false impression generated by article.

The $120,000 raised was mostly consumed by the costs for hospital facilities and associated medical staff, such as anaesthetic, postoperative care and rehabilitation. Professor Teo, when interviewed on television, advised that his fee was $8,000. He expressed his willingness to plan for patients and families who do not have the financial resources for surgery so that the operation can be done.

The Australian reported the response given by Professor Teo except for the details of the costs as had been explained in the interview. Thus, it failed to inform its readership fully about the details of the costs.

Professor Teo earned his primary medical qualification in Australia at the University of NSW. He gained his permanent registration as a medical practitioner by completion of internship training in the NSW public hospital system. There followed further work within the public hospital system as a junior doctor and a trainee in neurosurgery. He experienced difficulties in gaining the neurosurgical qualifications via the examination process of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and its Neurosurgical Society of Australasia.

Dr Teo went overseas to the USA where he was successful in gaining board certification as a neurosurgeon in three states. He then embarked on a career that has been remarkable for the achievements. Recognition in the USA and many other overseas countries as a very talented and innovative neurosurgeon has followed.

Professor Teo returned to Australia and NSW with his family and his attempts to join the public hospital sector were frustrated by the public system requiring “Centre of Excellence” classification for the advanced neurosurgical procedures that he could offer. He therefore commenced a private practice in the private hospital sector and also established a very successful foundation to assist in provision of neurosurgical services to the community.

The Neurosurgical Society of Australasia has been responsible for delaying another trainee qualification as a neurosurgeon in recent years. He was eventually successful after senior consultant neurosurgeons in his workplace intervened on his behalf. Professor Teo subsequently assisted him and he is now providing services in both the public and private sectors in a capital city that had been without a neurosurgeon.

Don Kane MB BS (UQ), FRACP, FCCP is Chairman, Health Professionals Australia Reform Association (HPARA).

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