Western Cape Government Launches Wellness Mobiles to Screen Learners

Theuns Botha MPP

Western Cape Minister of Health 

The Western Cape Government is delighted to announce an exciting new health initiative that will expand the access to healthcare services of learners in schools in the Western Cape. The initiative is a first-in-the country and in line with the Western Cape Government’s strategic objective of Creating Wellness.

The Provincial Departments of Health and Education are launching a Wellness Mobile Service which will see a fleet of five state-of-the-art mobile units visiting schools across the province to screen Grade R and Grade 1 learners, particularly in poor and rural areas for conditions that require medical and dental intervention. The mobile units will also provide preventive dental care to learners which has the potential to significantly reduce dental caries in the province.

The wellness units will be staffed with professional health staff who will undertake the screening of the learners and provide diagnostic assessment and treatment options as required. Referral to health facilities will be ensured where necessary.

Typical school health screening will include:

  • learners’ vision and hearing
  • ear, eye and skin examinations
  • testing of gross and fine motor skills, mental health, speech, and tuberculosis.
  • Oral health care

The initiative will run parallel with the current integrated school health programme service.

For these five mobile wellness units Western cape Government Health has budgeted R11.5 million which will contribute towards the payment of staff, fuel and other consumables. The Department of Education has allocated R12.5 million, which will cover the cost of leasing the mobile service. This will include the driver/operator, vehicles, equipment, maintenance and support. The Western Cape Government’s initial commitment to this project will be R24 million.

Tenders for a 10-year contracted service for the Wellness Mobile Wellness closed on Friday 22November and is in the process of adjudication. The first five mobile units are planned to hit the roads by mid-2014.

Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, said: “The screening of learners is a key element in our wellness strategy to reduce illness and bring about a healthier society. We can no longer afford to construct more hospitals and provide more chronic medication. The solution lies in detecting disease earlier, and that is why we are targeting our young children first where the benefits of preventing disease is the greatest.” Minister Botha added, “If we are able to detect visual and hearing disabilities early it will also be possible to improve the school performance.”

“But government cannot do this alone. We need the private sector to come on board in a partnership agreement. This is why we trust that the private sector will partner with us in developing and sponsoring the wellness mobile unit concept that we are demonstrating today possibly through co-branding.”

Western Cape Education Minister, Donald Grant, said, “This investment in child healthcare will have many benefits for education. A child that is often absent from school due to illness loses valuable teaching and learning time.”

Grant said that the various screening tests will identify if the child has any disabilities or challenges that may have not been diagnosed and could limit their school performance.

“For example, a learner may be struggling in the class environment due to an undetected hearing disability. If such a disability can be correctly diagnosed, and a hearing aid provided, the learner’s classroom and learning experience will significantly improve, thus breaking down barriers to learning. Therefore, we cannot underestimate the importance of early detection and treatment of learners.”

“The service will also spread an awareness of the importance of health beyond the school environment through to families and communities,” said Grant.

The Western Cape Government is committed to ensuring that as many learners as possible benefit from this programme. We are therefore inviting the private sector to partner with us to expand the reach of this important service through either contributing directly to the cost of the service or through marketing specific brands on the mobile vehicle.

Investing in the health and wellness of our children is an investment in education. Any contributions from the private sector to the improvement of health and education outcomes are invaluable not only to us as Government, but also to the community, parents and learners themselves.