Lindsay Murdoch BRISBANE
January 18, 2011
Death sentence ... Ila Amaral , pictured with her parents, in November. Photo: Basil Rolandsen
A NINE-YEAR-OLD East Timorese girl, Ila Amaral, has died because no Australian hospital would give her a life-saving operation.
For more than 12 months Dan Murphy, a doctor who runs a clinic for the poor in Dili, tried to convince Australian hospitals to accept her for surgery to correct her defective mitral heart valve.
"I blame myself first - I was unable to find the words to make things move for her," Dr Murphy told the Herald by telephone from the Bairo Pite Clinic, where Ila died last week.
A Victorian cardiologist, Noel Bayley, examined Ila in Dili in November. He said she needed open heart surgery. A cardiac team from Sydney had offered to travel to East Timor to perform the operation but permission to use local facilities was refused by Timorese authorities.
Dr Murphy appealed to the US Navy to be allowed to use one of the 12 operating rooms on the hospital ship USN Mercy when it was in Dili late last year but that was also refused.
"The navy people didn't want to allow the operation … because of the negative publicity if it didn't go well and she died," he said.
After failing to get a hospital in Australia to accept Ila, Dr Murphy appealed to others in the US and then a small cardiac hospital that is opening in Vietnam.
"All in all. a massive effort for something ridiculously simple as correcting a small girl's problem failed," he said.
Dr Murphy and his staff are devastated by Ila's death, only months after two teenage patients from the clinic underwent life-saving operations in Australia.
Responding to a story about the girls in the Herald, readers helped raise more than $30,000 to send them to Melbourne for operations at the Monash Medical Centre.
Dr Murphy, an American, is seen as a saint-like figure among the poor in Dili, where he has worked for almost 15 years.
"bureaucratic entanglement" in Australia for failing to save Ila and to help dozens of other Timorese requiring hospital treatment that is unavailable in East Timor, where most of the 1 million population live in poverty.
Money and assistance were available through the Rotary organisation Romac for Ila to travel to Australia under its program to assist children in Third World countries to receive medical treatment.
But Dr Murphy said innumerable emails and contacts failed to find a hospital that would accept her.
Romac's operations director, Richard Woodburn, said more than 300 children in East Timor required cardiac treatment.
Dr Murphy called for a system to be established that speeds up help in Australia for Timorese who will die unless they receive hospital treatment that is unavailable in their country.
"This little girl was simply not a high enough priority and because of that she lost her life when she should be living a healthy life," Dr Murphy said.
source: The Sydney Morning Herald