An East Timorese teenager will travel to Australia for heart surgery after Warrnambool's St John of God Hospital stepped in to fund the life-saving trip.
Nineteen-year-old Flavia Lucilda Guterres is expected to undergo her operation at the Monash Medical Centre after she arrives in Melbourne next Monday night.
Doctors had warned she could die at any moment from a heart condition that cannot be treated in East Timor.
Ms Guterres' dire medical condition was highlighted yesterday when Dili officials refused to pay her airfares from a special government fund set up to cover the cost of overseas patient transfers for urgent medical treatment.
Warrnambool cardiologist Noel Bayley, who has helped Timor patients for the last eight years, offered to pay her travel costs after learning of the government decision.
He was also trying to secure funding to pay for a second teenager who is also suffering from the narrowing of a heart artery, known as severe mitral stenosis.
Dr Bayley visits the developing nation one to two times a year to assess patients and carry out operations.
He organised for two urgent cases to travel to Australia last year, with the government paying their airfares and Dr Bayley picking up accommodation costs.
The specialist said he was not sure why the government had changed its policy on funding patients, but was pleased St John of God had agreed to fund airfares for the sickest of the two girls and a family member.
"For two patients it's only $6000, but if you do it regularly, it starts to add up."
"These are just two more patients in a great line of patients and I've been doing this for eight years."
Dr Bayley said his work in East Timor stemmed from a long-time vision to help out the less fortunate in a third world country.
"It's nice to do stuff in Australia, but you get paid for that, so it's nice to do something you don't get paid for. There's a sense of obligation there."
Dr Bayley said St John's had set up an East Timor trust fund for anyone wanting to donate to the cause and help future patients.
"I've got a dozen or more patients in East Timor waiting for procedures. I can use the money far faster than people can donate it."