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Transnet’s Phelophepa Health Trains on track to reach 12 million patients

"The iconic and award-winning Transnet Phelophepao I and II healthcare trains are on track to reach their 12 millionth patient directly, by the end of September this year, when they completes their journey throughout rural South Africa", Chairperson of the Board Ms. Linda Mabaso announced on Wednesday.

So far, the trains have reached a combined 11.7 million patients since inception directly. In conjunction with the Phelophepa run outreach programmes, it is estimated that over 20 million people have been reached.

Welcoming patients onto Phelophepa I in Klerksdorp Station in the North West Province, Ms Mabaso said Phelophepa, which is dubbed “Train of Hope” has been making a difference to the lives of millions of South Africans in greatest need of primary healthcare, since 1994. After Klerksdorp, Phelophepa I will move to Koster in North West where it will spend two weeks. Phelophepa II is currently in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

The Phelophepa Healthcare train project is comprises of two train sets that use Transnet Freight Rail’s existing infrastructure to deliver vital comprehensive primary healthcare services to communities mostly in remote rural areas. The train targets communities that would otherwise not have access to primary healthcare facilities.

Freight Rail is Transnet’s rail freight division and its biggest in terms of employees, contribution to revenue and capital expenditure.

Phelophepa I started in 1994 and in 2012 Transnet launched Phelophepao II which doubled the reach to close to 400 000 patients a year. Both trains were built and are maintained at Transnet Engineering, Transnet’s manufacturing and engineering division. Each train travels and services patients over a period of 36 weeks every year.

Phelophepa I and II, which operate simultaneously, have a staff compliment of 40 full-time employees each, complemented by at team of 40 volunteer students who are rotated on a two- weekly basis. The majority of the students are in healthcare disciplines in various universities in South Africa and abroad.

“We’re particularly proud of the role that these trains have played in the development and advancement of medical professionals in the country. So far, close to 4 000 students have received experiential training opportunities on Phelophepa,” said Ms Mabaso.

Currently, about 90% of the staff have come through this training pipeline, while the rest have been absorbed by the broader healthcare industry. “The latter, fills us with great pride”, she added.

Phelophepa is Transnet’s flagship community development  initiative and is operated by the Transnet Foundation – Transnet’s specialist unit for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Their extensive community outreach programmes include on-board primary healthcare, dental and optometry screening programmes, basic health education courses, psychological care and community counselling workshops.

Transnet’s unique clinic on wheels has won several international accolades, including the SIGMA THETA Nursing Award, otherwise known as the Oscars of Nursing, United Nations Public Service Award for its excellence in public service delivery, amongst others. The awards are in recognition of the pivotal role the train plays in the South African healthcare sector.

The success of the trains is underpinned by solid collaborations with key strategic partners in both the public and the private sectors namely: Roche, Colgate-Palmolive Foundation, 3M and American and Swiss Friends of Phelophepa. Transnet has provided the blue-print for successful public-private partnerships, by partnering on collaborative initiatives with stakeholders such as the Department of Home Affairs.

“The trains provide a blue print of workable private public partnerships while advancing South Africa’s developmental objectives. The next major step will be to mordenise our patient records management systems,” Ms Mabaso concluded.

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