Basel, 31 August 2010
Phelophepa ‘miracle train’ upgraded to deliver quality health care in South Africa
Mobile clinic on rails provides healthcare services to people in remote regions
The Transnet Foundation in South Africa and Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) today unveiled a refurbished health clinic aboard the Phelophepa Healthcare train, a primary health facility on rails. The Transnet owned train provides primary healthcare services to South Africa’s most remote rural areas, including eye and dental care, psychiatric support, cancer, diabetes and hypertension screening, as well as health education programmes.
Earlier this year, the Roche sponsored health clinic coach was up-graded to better meet the health needs of the rural communities. Among other improvements, the refurbished health clinic now boasts a wider passage to accommodate wheel-chair bound patients, a fully equipped consulting room for the medical doctor and five expanded examination cubicles providing general healthcare as well as cancer, diabetes and hypertension screening.
“Roche’s funding of the Roche Health Clinic ensures its continuing operation, paying the salaries of its staff, maintaining the equipment, and providing educational and training material” stated Dr Lynette Coetzee, Transnet Foundation’s Senior Manager for Health. “Roche also sponsors an Outreach Programme which provides healthcare services to school children, mostly in farming communities, who cannot come to the train station and where health facilities are not easily accessible ” Lynette concluded.
In conjunction with the launch of the upgraded clinic, an additional cancer and diabetes screening program is being offered at some of the train’s stops to enhance the screening offered on the train. Screening cubicles are erected on the train station platforms, offering free cancer and free diabetes screening and education to the community. In addition, Roche developed and sponsored a cancer education booklet in Zulu and English which is used by the health clinic staff to educate patients onboard the train and shared with the community health educators.
The public-private partnership between Transnet Foundation and Roche was first established in 1994 and since then over 600,000 people have been treated in the trains’ various clinics, and a further 1.3 million people have attended school screening, health education and counselling. More than 45,000 patients in South Africa’s rural communities register for treatment each year.
Steven Hoerter, CEO of Roche Products Pty Ltd, South Africa said: “By forging public-private partnerships, we are able to combine our specific skills and resources with those of other organisations to deliver outputs that could not have been achieved alone. Our long-standing partnership with Transnet has helped to bring primary healthcare to millions of South Africans, and we are very proud of the positive impact this initiative has had on people’s lives. The Roche Health Clinic forms an integral part of Phelophepa, or ‘miracle train’ as it is often referred to, so we had no hesitation in providing further funding to ensure the health clinic received a facelift”.
Phelophepa, (which, literally translated means good, clean health), travels through 70 communities over a two-year cycle and sees an average of over 45,000 patients a year. It has 18 coaches, is 340 metres in length and weighs over 600 tonnes. Rural communities make requests to the Transnet Foundation throughout the year to consider specific stops, while the national Department of Health provides the Transnet Foundation with information on where Phelophepa can render support to them. Transnet Freight Rail then indicates which railway lines are available and safe for Phelophepa. These are linked to what is known as the “Transnet Corridor”, the railway lines used by Transnet Freight Rail.
Phelophepa has a total of 36 stops and to date has touched the lives of over18 million people since its inception, among them, many women and children who previously had no access to basic health care. The train has a special team of 19 resident staff living on the train for its annual nine-month operational period. These dedicated healthcare professionals and support staff, together with the Transnet Foundation Office, manage the logistics and supervise the continuous stream of final year students from leading academic institutions all over South Africa. Approximately 1,200 final year student interns live and practice on board Phelophepa annually, preparing for careers in a variety of health-related fields. They each do between seven and 14 days of volunteer service and gain invaluable practical experience.
About Roche and Phelophepa
Roche was one of the first companies to fund Phelophepa after it was founded by Transnet in 1993 as a modest three-coach eye clinic built from redundant rolling stock. The coach housing the train’s health clinic was renamed the “Roche Health Clinic” in 2001 and in 2003 Roche substantially increased its support for Phelophepa, funding cancer screening and diabetes services. A year later, the service was improved to include cancer screening, including pap smears for cervical cancer, breast examinations and PSA testing for prostate cancer. In 2009 Roche funded oncology training for three nursing professionals who are now responsible for educating patients on the signs, symptoms and importance of early detection of cancer.
This year, Roche is stepping up its diabetes and cancer education and awareness commitment, spurred by recent studies predicting a sharp rise in the number of people with type-2 diabetes1 along with the increased incidence in the detection of cancer in South Africa. The United Nation’s most recent projection says cancer could kill more than 13.2 million people a year by 2030.2 A recent report by UN research task force, the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) shows that developing countries have a higher proportion of the cancer burden, accounting for 56% of new cases worldwide and 63% of all cancer deaths.2
1. SA Fam Pract 2006:48(10), Type 2 diabetes: the emerging epidemic Rheeder P, PhD, MMed (Internal Med) FCP (SA) Division of Clinical Epidemiology, Medihelp Chair in Clinical Epidemiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria. Available from http://www.safpj.co.za
2. Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, Forman D, Mathers C and Parkin DM. GLOBOCAN 2008, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr
Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a leader in research-focused healthcare with combined strengths in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. Roche is the world’s largest biotech company with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, virology, inflammation, metabolism and CNS. Roche is also the world leader in in-vitro diagnostics, tissue-based cancer diagnostics and a pioneer in diabetes management. Roche’s personalised healthcare strategy aims at providing medicines and diagnostic tools that enable tangible improvements in the health, quality of life and survival of patients. In 2009, Roche had over 80’000 employees worldwide and invested almost 10 billion Swiss francs in R&D. The Group posted sales of 49.1 billion Swiss francs. Genentech, United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche has a majority stake in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information: www.roche.com.
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