Health science students work on Phelophepa train

2016-02-24 06:00
 From left is Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Nursing Science lecturer Dr Maggie Williams with fourth-year nursing students Roxanne Jeptha, Tyler Blignaut, Kate Leistra and Ethal Tsopo, who spent two weeks on the Phelophepa health train.  photo: SUPPLIED

From left is Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Nursing Science lecturer Dr Maggie Williams with fourth-year nursing students Roxanne Jeptha, Tyler Blignaut, Kate Leistra and Ethal Tsopo, who spent two weeks on the Phelophepa health train. photo: SUPPLIED

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THE Phelophepa Health Train – known as the world’s biggest mobile clinic – has been a beacon of hope to millions of South Africans in need of medical assistance, since its induction in 1994.

This year, more than 50 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Health Science students will work aboard the health care train, alongside trained professionals to bring primary health care to 72 communities throughout South Africa. The university has been part of the “miracle train” initiative since 2008.

The first 18 nursing students from NMMU have just returned to the classroom after spending two weeks in Limpopo, delivering health care to hundreds of underprivileged people in the area as part of the Transnet Foundation initiative.

These students will be followed by additional fourth-year NMMU pharmacy and psychology students at different points of the Phelophepa’s journey throughout the year.

Health Transnet Foundation’s senior manager Shamona Kandia said NMMU has been a pioneer through its Trust and Community Development Unit and has always supported the project. “The Phelophepa complements those services and aims to assist communities which cannot afford health care and often experience barriers to access public health services.” Kandia explained.

Phelophepa, which means “good, clean health” in Tswana and Sotho, is more than a mobile hospital and contains over 40 permanent staff and numerous volunteers. It provides outreach and educational programmes and has reached over 23,5 million people thus far. About 50 pharmacy, dental, nursing, psychology and optometry students from various universities live and work in cabins on the trains for two-week rotation periods. Hospitality students also assist with meal preparation.

This year, the Phelophepa will visit the Eastern Cape from 13 June to 12 August and will be in Alice, Dimbaza, King William’s Town, Queenstown, Burgersdorp, Swartkops and Willowmore.

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