On 12 March, South African public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba officially unveiled Transnet’s second state-of-the-art healthcare train, Transnet Phelophepa II, at Mount Ruth Station in Mdantsane near East London.
The new train, operating simultaneously with the award-winning Phelophepa I that started in 1994, provides on-board primary healthcare including dental, optometry and psychological treatment.
Phelophepa is a flagship project of the Transnet Foundation – Transnet’s specialist unit for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Phelophepa I made history when it became the first sustainable South African CSR initiative to receive the prestigious United Nations Public Service Award for excellence in public service delivery and has received numerous accolades in South Africa and around the world.
The introduction of Phelophepa II more than doubles the number of people who benefit from the facility, taking the total to an estimated 370,000 individuals annually. Transnet Phelophepa’s extensive community outreach programmes include health, oral and vision screening programmes, basic health education courses and community counselling workshops.
Commenting on the introduction of Phelophepa II, public enterprises minister Gigaba says: “What started off 18 years ago as a modest three-coach eye clinic has become an internationally well-known beacon of hope, providing healthcare throughout South Africa, especially in rural areas. The launch of Phelophepa II allows us to reach the communities that need it most and demonstrates how public-private sector partnerships can be used to transform the lives of communities through social entrepreneurship.
“We have repeatedly committed to ensuring that state-owned enterprises entrusted to us in the Department of Public Enterprises will lead the rest of corporate South Africa as agents of change. In this regard, I challenge the private sector to match or even better this commitment.”
Each train has 20 permanent staff, 16 contracted security officials and 40 students on board. They function as training institutions for South African and international final-year professional health students, not only providing practical experience for nursing, dental, optometry, psychology and pharmaceutical students, but also attracting catering students needing an opportunity to practise their skills.
The trains will run from January to September every year. When the trains are not running, they will be housed at Transnet Rail Engineering’s (TRE) Salt River workshop where they undergo regular maintenance and upgrading.
The R82 million Phelophepa II project was engineered and built at TRE’s facility in Salt River, Cape Town. The train boasts advanced technology such as the use of fibre optics as a network medium – a first for any train in South Africa. The cost of the second train is in addition to the R150 million Transnet spends on social investments annually.
Swiss-based pharmaceutical company, F Hoffmann La Roche, a major external sponsor of both trains, sponsors the trains’ primary healthcare clinics and pharmacies, while Colgate-Palmolive partly sponsors the dental clinic. The two partners have been with Phelophepa since the project was started 18 years ago.
Phelophepa II will be visiting communities in the Eastern Cape province until May 2012; the Northern Cape from May to July; North West in July and August and Limpopo in August and September.