Lebo Tshabalala has turned her radiography qualifications and a passion for helping people into a viable business that aims to have an impact on thousands of people across South Africa. She plans to take her mobile TB screening unit Visionary X-Rays to mines, construction companies and other large enterprises in South Africa, offering TB screening to employees and their household partners.
For many, this will be the first screening they undergo, despite the fact that South Africa has the third highest TB infection rate in the world. If an employee is found to have TB, the unit travels to the employee’s home to screen his or her family members. This home service is subsidised in part by the government. In its first year of operation, the unit aims to x-ray over 20 000 people, says Tshabalala. She plans to expand her services to include much-needed mammograms and sonar scans, and to expand her reach across the rest of Africa, possibly through a franchise model.
“I grew up in a poor mining area near Odendaalsrus in the Free State, so I was well aware of the local need for access to quality, affordable healthcare. Many local people cannot afford to travel to government hospitals for diagnosis and screening; awareness of diseases such as TB and cancer is lacking, and often local healthcare facilities are ill equipped,” she says.
After graduating from the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, Tshabalala worked for some years at the Botshabelo District Hospital and private hospitals in Welkom and Johannesburg, where she observed that quality healthcare was available only to a select few. She then worked as a medical sales and marketing rep and studied for her MBA, honing her business skills and increasing her understanding of various markets.
Armed with this experience and grants won through the Pitch & Polish challenge and Mandela Washington Fellowship, she sourced specialised mobile x-ray equipment, fitted into a trailer capable of travelling on rural roads. With many awards and international recognition, this unit is just the start of a movement set to make quality healthcare available to people from all walks of life.
In addition to improving access to healthcare, Tshabalala actively seeks to encourage girls and young women to become entrepreneurs through the Dream Girls foundation. This foundation offers one-year entrepreneurship and leadership courses to schoolgirls in the Free State. — Tracy Burrows