Hauna and Colchester hospitals in twinning talks
By Own Correspondent
What do Colchester in Essex, England and Hauna in Zimbabwe’s eastern district of Mutasa have in common? Nothing immediately connects this old English town, famous for being the capital of Roman Britain, and the rural growth point that serves as a market hub for the agriculturally rich Honde Valley.
But that impression immediately vanishes when you’ve met Dr Blessing Zamba, Superintendent of Hauna Hospital and Medical Officer of Mutasa District, who is on a three-month work placement with hospitals in the UK, including Colchester Hospital, courtesy of a Commonwealth professional fellowship.
The catalyst of this unlikely union between Hauna and Colchester Hospitals was the Sango family, Jeff and wife Hazel who live in Colchester with their son Murishe and run Tete Hazel Hair Salon. Hazel is a native of Hauna and her abiding love for her hometown has seen her engage in various philanthropic acts over the years.
Jeff is a Citizens UK-trained community organiser who is also a strong advocate of hometown associations as an effective vehicle for diaspora-based Zimbabweans to contribute to the development of their home country. The Sango family were able to use their connections with the Commonwealth Foundation and Colchester Hospital to organise the work placement for Dr Zamba, whose work placement itinerary also includes Winchester, Southampton, and Bournemouth hospitals.
Commenting on the benefits of his work placement so far, Dr Zamba said, “This is a real eye opening opportunity. One can see how patient-centred care works. I am convinced that even with limited resources, just by creating an environment where patients feel valued and feel that they are part of the treatment process, the healing process can be accelerated.
“Staff on the wards, despite their rank, feel empowered to make decisions and are quite clear of their professional obligations and nothing is left to chance. I also realise that in a world where diseases like Ebola know no boundaries, there is an opportunity for hospitals worldwide to synergistically work together and create win-win situations.
“I am grateful to the Sango family for working hard to make this placement a reality, the Commonwealth for providing the funding and Colchester, Winchester, Southampton, and Bournemouth hospitals for accepting me to learn within their hospitals. I am also grateful to the government of Zimbabwe for agreeing to release me for the three months I am spending in this country. I will definitely go and share my experiences and knowledge with my staff”.
Dr Lucy Moore, Chief Executive of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have 4,500 staff and in common with hospitals throughout the United Kingdom we have many staff from overseas, including Zimbabwe, who make an invaluable contribution to the success of the National Health Service.
“Therefore, it was a pleasure for us to accept Dr Zamba and for me personally to meet him towards the end of his placement here. The Trust agrees in principle to a twinning arrangement with Hauna District Hospital. Dr Zamba has already been involved in a meeting with this Trust’s Medical Director, Dr Sean MacDonnell, to take this forward.
“I see twinning as being beneficial to both organisations because I know that it would be good for the professional development of our frontline staff – and therefore our patients – to spend time in Zimbabwe, and in return we would aim to contribute positively to Hauna District Hospital.”
Mr Sango said while many Zimbabweans in the diaspora were actively engaged in supporting family back home, there was need for a structured way to channel this support.
“An example is the formation of Hometown Associations. This is a tried and tested method, having been effectively undertaken in several countries like Mexico, El Salvador, India, Haiti and many others. This involves people from one geographical area coming together to support projects in their home area.
“As a result of Dr Zamba’s placement in the UK, a Friends of Hauna Association is now being formed. Membership is being drawn from those who were born in Mutasa district of Manicaland, or are associated with the area in any way. The group will work with institutions in Mutasa to provide for resource mobilisation for agreed projects. The first target will be supporting Hauna to become a credible health provider which can benefit both locals and visitors to the area.”
The association will choose a management committee to work with local communities, identifying local investment opportunities which can be jointly exploited by both the local communities and those living away from home.
“The assumption is that if this pilot is successful, other communities around the country would follow suit leading to a new developmental path for the whole country. As for now the focus is on establishing the Friends of Hauna Association,” Mr Sango said.