Doctor won’t give up on East Timor

> The (Cedar Rapids, IA) Gazette
>

>
> Iowa native finds life, challenges in suffering nation
>
> By Cindy Hadish
> The Gazette
> cindy.hadish@gazettecommunications.com
>
> Video/Audio: Dr. Dan Murphy talks about his East Timor clinic
>
>
> His patients battle poverty, as well as malaria, tuberculosis and
> other diseases seldom seen in his native Iowa, but Dr. Dan Murphy
> believes times should be improving for his clinic in East Timor.
>
> Considering what Murphy experienced in 1999, that outlook appears on target.
>
> East Timor, a former Portuguese colony on an island between Indonesia
> and Australia, was overtaken by Indonesia in 1975. In 1999, in the
> midst of militia violence during which entire towns were burned,
> Murphy was deported. Colleagues said the government perceived Murphy
> as too outspoken on human rights issues, which resulted in his banishment.
>
> Drawn by the residents’ great need and despite the risks, Murphy, a
> 1970 medical school graduate of the University of Iowa and a former
> Cedar Falls doctor, returned and built a new clinic.
>
> “As a doctor, you have an obligation to use your skills for the
> benefit of mankind,” Murphy said in an interview.
>
> At risk of death in some cases, East Timor residents voted for
> independence, which was granted in 2002.
>
> Even with independence, the new country faces great poverty and other
> issues, said Murphy, a native of Alton in northwest Iowa who returned
> to the United States last month for a family reunion. During his time
> in Iowa and elsewhere, Murphy tried to raise both awareness and money
> to operate his clinic.
>
> In the city of Dili, his Bairo Pite clinic — the name means
> “neighborhood of pigs” — is one of few places residents can go for
> health care in the country of 1 million people.
>
> Murphy keeps what doctors here would consider a frenetic pace, seeing
> about 300 patients daily.
>
> “I can’t do so many things — I don’t have an X-ray machine. The
> laboratory is very simple,” he said, noting sometimes he feels
> helpless. “I know exactly what they need, and the technology is
> there, but how do you get the person to the right place to get it done.”
>
> Instead of complicated procedures, Murphy focuses his time on
> diagnosing common illnesses for which the clinic has medicine.
> Malaria takes the lives of many children under 5 who haven’t
> developed resistance. Refugees living in tents and others in close
> quarters readily spread tuberculosis. Murphy said HIV and AIDS are
> growing issues.
>
> About 100 babies delivered in the clinic every month face a better
> outlook than those born elsewhere.
>
> Many women who give birth at home die from complications, and
> newborns face sanitation problems. Murphy treated a baby last month
> who contracted tetanus after its umbilical cord was tied with a dirty
> cloth at home.
>
> For more complex problems, Murphy looks to hospitals in Australia or
> elsewhere that might take a patient in need of heart surgery, for example.
>
> Getting care in the United States has become a challenge. Doctors
> here are willing to help, but visa restrictions became more
> complicated after 9/11, he said.
>
> Dili, a city of 150,000 residents, is slightly larger than Cedar Rapids.
>
> “I only wish they had the resources Cedar Rapids does,” Murphy said.
>
> The clinic, with a staff of 48, including a few volunteer doctors,
> operates on about $10,000 per month. Nurses make a monthly salary of $140.
>
> Staffers also go to remote mountain areas to reach people who cannot
> make it to the clinic.
>
> Murphy’s message has been well-received during his time in the United
> States, said his sister, Maureen Murphy of Cedar Falls.
>
> The two grew up in a family of seven children. Their father was a
> small-town physician, which she believes influenced her brother’s
> career choice.
>
> At age 62, Murphy has no plans for retirement.
>
> “I get to be a doctor,” he said, noting he doesn’t have to contend
> with insurance companies or paperwork. “I feel like I have to keep helping.”
>
> —
>
> Worth A Look
>
> TO HELP: Tax-deductible donations for the Bairo Pite clinic, payable
> to San Carlos Foundation, may be sent in care of Dr. Dan Murphy’s
> sister, Maureen Murphy, at 2603 Iowa St., Cedar Falls, IA 50613. She
> can be reached at (319) 277-7130. Murphy said Americans also can help
> by sponsoring an East Timor exchange student; by finding hospital
> placement for a patient in need of medical care; or by volunteering.
>
> ON THE NET: More information on the clinic:
> http://bairopiteclinic.tripod.com/drdan.htm
>
>

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