KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala launched the Transnet-Phelophepa health-care train clinic in Phoenix in 2020. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala launched the Transnet-Phelophepa health-care train clinic in Phoenix in 2020. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

’Miracle train’ now in Phoenix

By Zainul Dawood Time of article published Apr 7, 2021

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Durban - THE Transnet-Phelophepa Healthcare Train, the world’s first primary health-care hospital on wheels, will begin attending to patients at the Phoenix Railway Station on Wednesday.

The train, using the existing rail network in South Africa, aims to supplement and support existing health-care facilities and is expected to be in Phoenix until April 17.

The 19-coach train, with its 20 resident staff members, fondly known as the “miracle train”, carries the most modern medical equipment on board. The name Phelophepa combines elements of Sotho and Tswana and, roughly translated, means good, clean health.

Avasha Gopaulsingh, spokesperson for the health-care train in KwaZulu-Natal, said the first of the health trains started operating in 1994. Since then it has grown significantly, boasting 19 fully refurbished and equipped coaches that provide facilities for health, oral and vision screening programmes, basic health education awareness and community counselling workshops. The train has a convenient on-board pharmacy.

“Health-care education lies at the very heart of Phelophepa services. It equips people living in such remote communities with important knowledge to correctly prevent and identify disease symptoms as well as how to take their medication correctly. The community outreach programme, led by the chief nurse, frequents local schools and communities in the surrounding areas,” Gopaulsingh said.

Nursing teams are expected to visit local schools to screen children for health-related problems and educate them about basic health care. Every year, approximately 1 200 final-year students, supervised by senior health-care professionals and staff from the Transnet Foundation, practice on board the health trains to gain work experience.

The health-care train has won several service excellence awards over the years, including the UN Public Service Award in the Improving Service Delivery category in June 2008.

“Through on-board clinic services and community outreach programmes, Phelophepa impacts over 180 000 patients a year. Increased demand for the Phelophepa services necessitated the provision of a second train, The Phelophepa II, which began operation in March 2012. With both trains operating simultaneously, the extended reach of the primary health-care offering enables potentially 360 000 patients to receive the health care they would not have had access to before on an annual basis,” said Gopaulsingh.

This is a joint initiative between the eThekwini Municipality and the KZN Department of Health.

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