Fi Oakes – Clinic Manager

Fi is from West Yorkshire, England, but lived and worked in various locations around the globe before she came to Bairo Pite Clinic (BPC) in Dili, Timor-Leste. She worked for 16 years managing community health programs, including outreach, treatment care and support for young people and for people in difficult circumstances due to drugs, alcohol or mental health issues.. Fi has also previously worked with the Criminal Justice System in assisting with the rehabilitation of offenders and drug and alcohol users, as well as being on a regional panel that developed the key skills requirement staff for working at various levels within drug and alcohol services.

Starting in 2005 and continuing into 2007, Fi worked in Bangladesh as an adviser for services working with drug users and street-based sex workers, under a program that aimed to work on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. After that, Fi joined the Asian Harm Reduction Network as manager of the Technical Advice and Capacity Building Unit, delivering training programs and capacity building across South and South East Asia and working alongside partner organisations to develop policies.

Fi first came to Timor-Leste in 2010 to work with two separate organisations that were engaged in HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. When those contracts ended, Fi was invited to apply for the job of Manager at BPC. Having now been working as Clinic Manager since 2012, Fi’s main responsibilities are everything except treating the patients. Including human resources; overseeing clinic finances, logistics, procurement, governance, infrastructure and liaising with external supporters. She is also heavily involved in supporting international volunteers, developing internal policies and encouraging the capacity development of the 82 local staff members.

Developing a strong team ethos which encourages mutual respect is what Fi particularly enjoys about her job. She likes to ensure that all the staff at BPC understand and appreciate the interdependent relationship between all the different departments. Coaching and mentoring individual staff to achieve their potential and encouraging leadership within the staff team creates a positive vibe that Fi is constantly aiming to achieve. Being engaged with the staff at BPC on a long-term basis means that she has had the opportunity to see staff members develop their skills and confidence and can offer support for them to move forward in their ambitions. Over time, Fi has also developed relationships with national level institutions such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social and Solidarity, as well as a number of local NGOs, meaning BPC is well integrated into the wider jigsaw that is Timor-Leste’s healthcare service. Developing complimentary services with those they’re working alongside is crucial for efficient service provision.

Sourcing sufficient finance is a constant challenge at BPC. Not only is there an increasing number of patients coming to the clinic requiring various forms of medical attention, but there is also a growing number of fulltime staff who need supporting, many of whom are from the local community and are the main breadwinners for their families. Retaining the quality of care that the clinic provides is not easy when funds are so limited. Fi would like to see the infrastructure of the clinic improve over time to provide the best possible environment for staff to deliver their health care.

A dream that Fi shares with Dr Dan is to improve and expand the services for women’s health in Dili and across Timor-Leste, particularly empowering women to form health focused groups within the community and for BPC’s staff team to support health promotion to women regarding their rights to health and quality care for their children, including vaccinations, the importance of breastfeeding, the importance of antenatal care and access to a clinic, hospital or health post to deliver their babies.

Fi is a 24/7 clinic manager and when asked what she does with her time off, she looks puzzled? “Er… what is that?” But she does try to make sure she attends Rotary Club of Dili every week, where she takes the role of Sergeant at Arms, assisting in fundraising and local community activities.

Project categories: Staff, Support and Administration