Phelophepa Healthcare Train

The Transnet-Phelophepa trains are free, mobile healthcare clinics that travel to areas of rural South Africa, where there is just one doctor for every 5,000 patients. Phelophepa (pronounced pay-lo-pe-pa) means "good, clean health" and is owned and operated by Transnet Foundation, with Roche being Phelophepa’s main external sponsor since the first train journey in 1994.

The Transnet Phelophepa Healthcare Train (Phelophepa’ is a Sotho and Venda word meaning ‘good, clean health’), boasts consulting rooms spacious enough to accommodate a patient, an escort, a nurse, and a clinical supervisor.

The coach containing the health clinic was renamed the Roche Health Clinic in 1995 in recognition of the company’s contribution, and it has been proudly sporting this name ever since. In 1995 two additional coaches were added to Phelophepa, and a year later it reached its present length of 16 coaches.

In 2001 Roche offered to play an even more prominent role in the project. As a result, the company now bears full responsibility for the Roche Health Clinic: for ensuring its continuing operation, for paying the salaries of its staff, for maintaining the equipment and for providing educational and training materials.

Roche also finances a vehicle that the health clinic staff can use while the train is at a station, to visit surrounding villages and schools. The unit also features an emergency room equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic tools - ranging from a cardiac monitor to a defibrillator, to intravenous therapy apparatus and an adjustable Trendelenburg bed.

It conducts screenings for cancer, diabetes, and hypertension, with pap smears for women and prostate checks for men. The screening itself is backed by a comprehensive programme of education and outreach. Wherever it travels across the country, the Phelophepa brings more than the promise of Good, Clean Health … it brings hope and healing to those who need it most...delivering the promise to the patients.  

  • Has 18 coaches, is over 780 metres in length and weighs over 1,350 tonnes

  • Travels through up to 70 communities annually

  • Is operated by around 20 resident staff and supported by up to 40 South African student volunteers

  • Has helped to train over 20 000 student doctors, pharmacists and nurses since its first journey in 1994

  • Has made over 25,000 school visits to date, delivering vital health checks, medicines and education to children

  • Sees an average of over 375,000 patients a year, issuing over 68,000 prescriptions.

  • Over 5.8 million people have benefited through general health screening, HIV/Aids awareness initiatives, health education and counselling outreach services. 

  • 1993– The ‘Eye Train’, with three carriages, makes its first journey

  • 1994– Phelophepa takes to the rails and Roche steps aboard as a main sponsor

  • 2001– The health clinic is renamed the Roche Health Clinic

  • 2003-06 – HIV/AIDS awareness programmes reach millions of people

  • 2008 – Phelophepa receives UN recognition for improving delivery of services

  • 2009 – The train grows to its current length of 18 coaches

  • 2009 – Established cancer health awareness service, including screening, staff training, patient counselling and education

  • 2010 – The Roche Health Clinic undergoes a full refurbishment

  • 2012 – Phelophepa II launches in South Africa, doubling healthcare capacity for the service

  • 2013 – Cancer anti-stigma activities are piloted with the Cancer Awareness Program

  • 2014 - Phelophepa I and II fully operational as of 20th January 


Phelophepa media releasePhelophepa brochure

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