Bulawayo UK-based doctor gives back to community

Ms Toska Fairchild
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THERE is no place like home, so goes the saying. These are the sentiments shared by Bulawayo-born and raised Ms Tosca Fairchild who is based in the United Kingdom and was on a visit to Mpilo Central Hospital last week with a team of doctors and nurses to support the training and education of renal clinicians in the country.

Ms Fairchild, who attended Sacred Heart Primary school in Esigodini and later Speciss College said she was glad to be in Bulawayo, her city of birth, to give back to the community that raised her. The death of her mother in 2015 to kidney failure motivated her to return to the city.

“My mother died of kidney failure in 2015 in Bulawayo and this became a cause that was very close to my heart. I have been fortunate enough to have a career that has resulted in the position that I hold to support the team in giving back to the community. It was quite bizarre and astonishing for me that not only does the team have interest in kidney, biopsy and dialysis which was the condition that led to my mum passing on, but also Bulawayo and Mpilo at heart, and it was almost like it was meant to happen. That is why I am so passionate about it,” she said.

Today, Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Women’s Day (IWD). Running under the theme, “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights,” the commemorations come at a time when the UK-based doctor joins other local women who have stood firm to make a difference in their communities. 

“I have been in the UK for more than 20 years and I have worked in the National Health Service (NHS) for the past 15 years as a commissioner then moved to large acute hospitals. So I have worked primarily in governance and communication and my latest role is when I was appointed assistant chief executive officer,” she said.

She also worked at Derby Hospital for eight years, then left for Burton Hospital. The two hospitals merged and she was leading on the governance side for the merger to create University Hospitals of Derby and Burton and in 2018 the union was finalised. The new institution became one of the biggest hospital trusts in the UK with 12 500 members of staff. However, Ms Fairchild said she learnt of the visit to Bulawayo when plans were at a developmental stage.

“The interest started with a colleague, who is also Zimbabwean and comes from Bulawayo too, when we were on a ward round and we talked about how Zimbabwe works. Their interest was to come and assist people in Third World countries. By the time I got to know about this project to come to Bulawayo there had been a massive amount of work that had been done already, including fundraising and research about Mpilo hospital and links had been established.

“I consider myself as being the icing on the cake because the cake had already been baked but what sparked my interest in the team and often happens in the NHS, is that the best ideas always come from the shop floor. As NHS leaders we always have to support them to deliver that vision that they have and that is how this project came about.”

She applauded the hard work exhibited by Mpilo Hospital staff.

“In the week that I have spent at Mpilo, every member that I have met is dedicated and absolutely passionate about their work and they are delivering the best care that they can within the confines of the environment and resources that they have. There is nothing more that I personally think they can do. How it could improve, I think there is a significant number of Zimbabweans in the UK from Bulawayo who are passionate about giving back to the community and I am just a tiny spec in a vast majority that want to come and assist’,’ she said.

“If we were to come together as a Zimbabwean community in the UK, we can discuss about how we can assist Mpilo, the community that we come from. That would be helpful for us to move our passion forward and also for the system to work with us, they have to open their doors for us. They have been very welcoming to us and the team, they can open up even more so that when people make contacts when they want to assist the hospital, they get the necessary help. I am fortunate to have a family in the city but my colleagues do not and they have left their families to come and be here with the people which is a huge sign of commitment.”

Ms Fairchild added that there were other possible areas of collaboration.

“We need support when we come and there are so many things that can be done and in my view the work that I want to do for Mpilo is wider than the renal unit. As I walked around, I saw a lot of potential for support that if I gather the support of my colleagues from Zimbabwe living in the UK, we can do something. For example the visitors’ benches outside are broken, we can just fundraise and buy new benches. The nurse’s accommodation also needs a lot of work, the hospital needs wheelchairs and various other things and we can donate to assist,” said Ms Fairchild.

She said in conversations with some junior doctors, she realised the ambitions that they have and that they only need to have their vision supported.

 “I am a Maplanka girl and most people in Bulawayo know the family. My father was Fairchild Maplanka and he is late. I am the seventh child in a family of nine. Before leaving the country, I worked at the then Beverly Building Society as a marketing officer from 1990 to 2001 and eventually left for the UK. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance, Money and Banking from the University of East London in the UK and I am currently doing a Master’s Degree at Birmingham University. I am also the chairperson for the UKs largest anti-racism charity — Show Racism the Red Card which provides anti-racism training using football and high-profile footballers.”