HRH FBO Leaders in Action Interview: Vuylewa Chitimbire
An interview series with HRH champions in developing countries produced by the HRH Global Resource Center. This part of the series focuses on HRH leaders in faith-based organzations.
Vuylewa Chitimbire has been the Executive Director for the Zimbabwe Association of Church Related Hospitals (ZACH) since 2000.
Could you briefly describe the path that you took to become the executive director of ZACH and how does your background support the HRH initiatives that you’re doing and the leadership that you have with them?
I'm a trained health services administrator and I specialized in advanced resource management and health systems management. I studied in the United States and earned an undergraduate in Biology and a joint MSC/MBA before working briefly at several hospitals there. When I returned home, I worked for the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare as a health services administrator and a mentor for incoming administrators in ministry on policies, hospital funding, human resources and budgeting. I started at the district level, and within a few months I was promoted to a provincial level and was in charge of a number of districts within the province. Two years later I was promoted again to a tertiary and training hospital for both doctors and nurses and worked with professionals and clinicians. My role was to make sure the institution was well staffed, equipped and resourced and that the medical professionals were delivering quality services.
Before coming to work at ZACH, I also worked at the Ministries of Health and Child Welfare coordinating human resources and helping top management in planning strategies for health care delivery, the Ministry of Local Government as the deputy director for administration setting up systems and decentralization policies. I was recalled to the Ministry of Health to started and head the department for planning, monitoring and evaluation as an undersecretary.
What do you like the most about your current position?
I love working with the communities and the church institutions. It opens your eyes when you go out there and see that the services you are providing actually have an impact on the communities. I like seeing people happy and able to continue with their livelihoods with improved health. It enhances the community and empowers them to improve their lives.
What do you think others such as Ministry of Health, clients, other government leaders expect from FBOs?
The expectation is that we should do a lot of work with few resources. The government thinks that since we have donors, partners and other church support that these groups will provide a lot of resources; but with the global recession, some of the funds are not coming. In terms of communities, the expectations are high because mission hospitals provide quality services and get a lot of donations in-kind, like drugs. We provide these donations to patients for free, so people expect us to always provide drugs and services for free. In Zimbabwe, we find that people are leaving urban centers with government institutions and coming to rural mission hospitals because they know that when they get there they will be attended and services are free or cheaper. They would rather spend money travelling to the nearest mission hospitals to get attended than pay the fees at a government or private institution. So, the expectations by leaders, the government and communities are high, but I'm glad the perception is that we provide quality health services and treat patients with dignity and respect.
How would you help improve FBO collaboration on human resources for health with government and with the NGO community?
I think it's very important to have evidence based information to inform the government and other partners of FBO activities and workload on the ground. In terms of human resources, we are currently dependent on the government for staff salaries and recurrent expenditure through a grant to provide public health services to communities. However we are at times forced to conform to our partners’ strategies in terms of local intervention and utilization of resources because they have their own targets to meet. We need to be able to show data to argue our case for human resource needs and advocate for [memorandums of understanding] MOUs with partners for mutual arrangements that meet their goals without compromising our needs and those of the communities we serve. We need evidence to negotiate with the government to say this is what it would take for us to deliver services that you want so that both of us are happy and we are supported. When it comes to funding, we could then negotiate for a certain percentage of the budget and a percentage of human resources to support that process.
What is the biggest human resource challenge you are facing and how are you approaching it?
The biggest resource challenge in Zimbabwe is that our economy is not performing very well. Our unemployment rate is 80%, and we have lost a lot of health professionals to migration, particularly specialists. We mainly get new doctors and nurses who have just graduated coming to work in institutions. We put them in the deep end and expect them to deliver services; but some of them have no administrative skills, no experience, and have no one to mentor them. Also, health workers like junior doctors might earn only $300USD per month, so how do you motivate someone with that? They move to neighboring countries where the salaries are better, so our challenge is really retention of health workers and skilled personnel for service delivery. We are currently working with the government to train some health workers, but we're still losing specialists and will have to start from scratch to try to recruit them.
What do you see on the road ahead in the future for faith based organizations and their human resources for health?
I think for the future it's critical that we actually provide some statistics to show our workloads and needs on the ground based on various areas of service delivery. I think what we need to do for faith-based leaders is to come up with an inventory or a survey to look into the human resources for health supply and requirements within the faith based organization. We've got interventions for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, eye problems, injuries and so forth. We should be able to analyze the data and to determine the type of skilled personnel we need for those interventions. We should be able to provide services which address real problems and get the human resources suitable to address those needs. We need to be able to use statistics to analyze what the community needs are and come up with proper interventions supported by the right skilled personnel and other complimentary resources to improve service delivery.