The Soweto doctor who’s disabling the healthcare divide.

Every day, nearly 240 South Africans suffer from a stroke – and about 70 of them will die as a result. For those who survive, many will suffer from life-changing disabilities, such as being unable to walk, talk, or to recognise people or objects. Stroke victims can improve their quality of life, and, over time, regain a lot of the function that they lost, but post-stroke rehabilitation isn’t cheap, and many victims – especially those who are from low-income communities – are simply not able to afford it.

Enter Dr Thabiso Mmoledi, a Soweto-based medical doctor. He recognised the huge divide between public and private healthcare services in South Africa, and he wanted to do something about it – as did Amy Harrison, a physiotherapist at McCulloch Harrison & Partners (MH&P) RehabMatters in Rivonia.

The duo met in 2014 through Dr Douglas Maleka, who was a senior lecturer in the Wits physiotherapy department at the time. Dr Mmoledi had been running a community wellness gym for five years at the

Dobsonville Stadium, and he saw the potential to partner with MH&P RehabMatters to make private rehabilitation services available to the Dobsonville community.

In 2017, Dr Mmoledi and Amy founded a non-profit company in Dobsonville, Soweto, called Phila Sonke Wellness Initiative (PSWI).

“In isiZulu, the word ‘Phila’ means to be in good health, and the word ‘Sonke’ speaks to the idea of togetherness. Phila Sonke is all about being well together, as a community,” says Dr Mmoledi.

Over many years, Dr Mmoledi has been instrumental in mobilising a team of partners – MH&P RehabMatters, the City Of Johannesburg Nursing Services, Ekhaya Health & Fitness Club, Utho Ngathi Disability Projects, and Lead Change – to assist PSWI in its goal to connect people with disabilities with the rehabilitation services they need.

Thanks to these partners – who deliver their services on a low-cost basis – as well as donors, funding is available for everything from nursing care to rehabilitation therapy; medical screenings to vocational rehabilitation; and gym memberships to return-to-driving programmes. People with disabilities, including those who have been affected by head injuries and strokes, are now truly able to return to lives of dignity and purpose.

Since the birth of PSWI, Dr Mmoledi has provided free medical screening and management to hundreds of his Soweto-based patients, too.  

“I was tired of simply prescribing medication to patients; I joined Phila Sonke’s mission to meaningfully impact lives with the work that I do,” adds Dr Mmoledi.

“If a stroke victim can receive treatment within three hours, their chances of recovery increases by 40%. Rehabilitation and access to immediate medical care are the magic tools that can help restore people’s lives,” he explains.  

“Our vision is that all disabled people in South Africa are able to access the healthcare and wellness support they need to live their best and most productive lives with dignity.”

The life-changing work that PSWI does is funded through generous corporate and private donors, as well as municipal and government representatives. These donations change lives and open up paths to bring back quality of life to families, and even entire communities. If you are able to contribute in any way, please click here