Respected Family Doctor Dan Murphy Dies, Aged 75

Respected Family Doctor Dan Murphy Dies, Aged 75

Dr Dan Murphy treating patients at the Biarru Pite clinic (Image/Jogerjo Guterres)

DILI, 15 April 2020 (TATOLI) – The founder of Dili’s Bairru Pite clinic, who treated patients for more than two decades, has died of a heart attack.

The US-born physician was 75.

The clinic’s manager, Inácio dos Santos, told TATOLI that Doctor Murphy had headed home yesterday, complaining of being tired, but said he had promised to return to work this morning.

“Director Daniel was treating patients in a good condition yesterday, but in evening around 8:30, Timor time, I received a phone call from a daughter who live with him saying Doctor Daniel has passed away,” Mr Santos said.

He said staff rushed to the Doctor’s home at Praia dos Coqueiros, Dili, and attempted to revive the man

‘Dr Dan’ (Image/supplied)

“His daughter told me that Doctor Daniel was sleeping, but not breathing anymore, so I went to the clinic and call for the ambulance…and we were able to go to his residence, but he lost his breath,” he explained.

A champion of Timor-Leste

His death has led to a flood of tributes from Timorese leaders on social media and elsewhere. The President of the National Parliament, Arão Noé de Jesus da Costa Amaral, said the late doctor deserved a “distinction” from the government for his efforts to improve the health of Timorese people.

“Without any help from the State, he set up the fund by himself to support the clinic [with support] from abroad,” Mr Amaral said.

Dr Murphy addressing the media in May, 2019 (Image/PR Media)

Arão acknowledged the clinic had run into financial difficulties in recent months, but Doctor Murphy was still able to send many Timorese patients to undergo important treatment abroad.

“Doctor Murphy sends many Timorese to undergo treatment abroad in Australia. This is very difficult effort. Thus he deserves a distinction from the state,” he said.

The president added that parliament would consider a vote of prayer in honour of the doctor’s passing.

Former President José Ramos-Horta wrote on Facebook that Timor had lost “a good man”.

“To Dan’s relatives in the US, I send my most heartfelt condolences. Your grief is the grief of thousands of Timorese, of those touched by Dan’s healing heart and hands. Dan was the doctor of the poor. Now he has left us. We shall strive to continue his mission, honour his legacy,” he wrote.

While the wife of President Guterres, Cídalia Nobre Lopes Mouzinho Guterres, said she had spoken to Doctor Murphy only last month about his efforts to improve nutrition.

“Thank You Doctor Daniel Murphy for all of your dedication to Timorese People, Rest in Peace,” she said.

A one-way ticket to Dili

Dr Murphy was born in 1944 in the small town of Alton the US state of Iowa, where his father was the area doctor.

According to a 2015 profile in Sports Illustrated, Dr Murphy left a job as team doctor for the Northern Iowa University’s athletic department in 1998 to set up the clinic.

“I was at the age where when my mind drifted, I started thinking about retirement and shuffleboard,” Dr Murphy told the magazine. “I’m so glad I want to East Timor because those are the things that would have killed me.”

He moved to Dili with no intention of returning, he said.

His career in Timor-Leste spanned some of its most turbulent years: from the withdrawal of Indonesian forces in 1999 and the horrendous violence that followed, all the way to the 20th anniversary celebrations last year.

With ‘Doctor Dan’ as Executive Director, Bairru Pite, also known as Lanud Clinic, became a vital clinic for Timor-Leste’s poor. It received support from international donors, but came close to closing a number of times because of a lack of funds.

Doctor Murphy with some of the Bairru Pite staff in 2016 (Image/DFAT)

The clinic provides free health treatment to up to 300 patients per day. Employing more than 80 Timorese staff, the clinic covers maternity and infant care, vaccinations, tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever treatment, HIV diagnosis and treatment, in-patient and dental services, health outreach and training for local health care workers. It also operates a medical laboratory, pharmacy, kitchen and laundry.

For his work, Dr Murphy was awarded the Medal of Merit in 2009, the country’s highest honour. He also received the UN’s Sergio Vieira de Mello Humanitarian Award

Clinic Manager, Inácio dos Santos, said Doctor Murphy had always told him he wanted to be buried on the site when he died.

“He said to me if I die; bury me in the gate of Bairo Pite Clinic so that people will see me when they come to the clinic,” he said.

But Mr Santos said the decision would ultimately be up to the family to decide where the doctor will be laid to rest.

Read our Tetum coverage here: Doutór Daniel Murphy Hakotu Iis;  Prezensa Daniel Murphy iha TL hanesan Eroi ba Timoroan;  Espoza PR Hato’o Sentida Kondolénsia ba Família Doutór Daniel Murphy

Journalists: Felicidade Ximenes and Robert Baird

Editors: Agapito dos Santos, Robert Baird

Translation: Nelia Borges


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