Cape Town - More than a thousand farmworker families will soon have easier access to affordable health care with the launch of the Owethu primary health-care clinic stationed at Villiera wine farm in Stellenbosch.

Surrounded by nature and grapevines as far as the eye can see, the facility includes medical and dental care, oncology treatment, basic healthcare education and a pharmacy.

David Grier, managing trustee of the Cipla Foundation, the social enterprise division of pharmaceutical company Cipla Medpro, which has been behind the project, said it took four years and cost R2.2 million to get to this phase.

“Usually they (farmworkers) would travel four to five hours to a clinic in Bloekombos or Stellenbosch and it would take them another five hours to travel back. We are trying to give them what they deserve.”

Fifteen farms in surrounding areas have around 800 to 1 000 families who will benefit from the service.

The facility which is being launched in partnership with NGO, The Pebbles Project, will officially open in January.

Grier, who is also an adventurer, said the idea came to mind after several trips running through Tanzania, China and Madagascar where it was difficult to find basic health care.

“I was constantly getting sick and needing vaccinations and thought how I could help to find basic medical care.”

Owethu, meaning “ours”, is dedicated to improving the delivery and access of primary health care in rural communities, and by doing so, lessening the burden on South Africa’s public health-care system, he said.

“Our aim is to roll this out to the rest of Africa. If there is no space to build a hospital, this could be used.

“There are enough medical personnel but there is not enough infrastructure in Africa.”

The clinic, which is made of modular pods, can be deployed anywhere and would comprise four permanent staff, a clinical nursing sister, an assistant nurse, oral hygienist and volunteer doctors, dentists and oncologists.

He added that all medical treatment would be affordable to those in the communities and cost less than that of private health care.

Paul Miller, chief executive of Cipla Medpro, said South Africa’s rural primary health-care system was in need of major resource assistance.

“This is an initiative that will change the rural primary health-care industry in the country, and possibly even on the continent.

“The fact that the unit makes use of interlocking pods means that it can be deployed anywhere, whether that is in rural South Africa, or anywhere in Africa.

“It makes use of an entire sophisticated turnkey solution, and can exist independently, in a self-sustainable manner,” said Miller.

Cape Argus