Western Cape Health Minister views screening of learners in the Overberg and Cape Winelands

Theuns Botha, Minister of Health

Western Cape Government

The Western Cape Minister of Health Theuns Botha, visited two rural schools – one in the Overberg and one in the Cape Winelands – where learners are screened on the province’s state-of-the-art Wellness Mobiles for School Health.

Minister Botha visited the Umyezo Wama Apile Primary School in Grabouw (photo attached), and the Alfons Primary School in Windmeul, Paarl. Both events were attended by local councillors and officials from the Department of Health and Education respectively.

The Wellness Mobiles started being rolled out to schools across the province this month in order to screen Grade R and Grade 1 learners in order to identify vision, speech, hearing or skin problems as well as to assess their motor skills, mental health, oral health and test them for Tuberculosis (TB).

The fleet of five state-of-the-art wellness mobiles is a flagship project for Western Cape Government and a demonstration of the provincial departments of Education and Health working Better Together. The project is the first in which the two departments are putting life into the Integrated School Health Programme in this fashion.

The Wellness Mobiles for School Health will visit schools across the province, particularly in poor and rural areas in order to screen Grade R and Grade 1 learners for conditions that require medical and dental intervention. The preventive dental care that will be provided by this service will significantly reduce dental cavities  among children.

Each Wellness Mobile for School Health includes:

  • ·       a consultation room where general health screening can be performed. This includes a physical assessment, assessment of gross motor skills, height and weight, ear, nose and throat examination, screening for TB symptoms and other psycho-social issues.
  • ·       a dental unit section for screening for oral health and rendering of dental and oral hygiene services; and
  • ·       An optometry unit, for the testing of eyesight in order to provide learners with spectacles if needed.

These units were selected to be included in the Wellness Mobiles after it was found that many young learners living in poor areas did not have access to these health services.  The advantage of this one-stop health service is that learners who are identified as needing  spectacles and dental care, will now  be attended to on the spot.

Each Wellness Mobile for School Health is staffed by a school nurse, an optometrist and a dentist. The initial focus of the roll out of this service is Grade R and Grade 1 learners in the poorest Quintile 1 and 2 schools. We are also focusing on schools situated in areas where it is most challenging for parents to access dentists and optometrists. We believe that ensuring that poor learners have proper access to health services, including  spectacles and dental care, will also have a positive effect on education outcomes in the province,

Minister Botha, said: “Finally we are able to bring healthcare to schools using state-of-the art technology, in smart vehicles, with equipment of the highest standard.  For example, the optometrist will use digital technology, which transmits the readings of the child’s visual status electronically to the laboratory that manufactures the spectacles, and the spectacles will be delivered a week later. The project has been designed to reduce the barriers to learning caused by health problems such as poor eyesight and dental caries.”

Minister Botha called on corporates that are interested in sponsoring these mobiles, to contact him. “The Dischem Foundation has invested in the one Wellness Mobile in the Metro, but we need more sponsors to enable us to screen even more learners. This is an investment in the health and wellness of our future generation.”

The 10-year contract for this service was awarded to Mobile Satellite Technologies, a company that specialises in the provision of mobile clinic services. . The vehicles are supplied with solar power and generators and carry their own water supply. Plans for waste water and medical waste management have also been included in the mobiles. The vehicles are also equipped with air-conditioning, a kitchenette and toilet facilities