Hillbrow Health Precinct

Think of Hillbrow and you're most likely to think of a deprived inner city area characterised by poverty, crime and disadvantage

But the Hillbrow Health Precinct (HHP) is changing the perception of Hillbrow and the reality. Breathing new life into the inner city, the HHP is an internationally recognised focal point for innovation in research and traning in the field of health care and community development

Firmly rooted in the community, the precinct is gradually reversing the decline that has characterised Hillbrow in the last decade, with the restoration of several important heritage buildings to renewed glory as centres of medical excellence. A unique partnership between the City of Johannesburg, the Gauteng Department of Health and the Wits RHI, the HHP is a visionary, world-first health precinct addressing HIV and related diseases poverty and urban renewal in Johannesburg's inner city.

Standing at the intersection of urban regeneration and community based health care, and demonstrating the best use of modern technology in both spheres, the Hillbrow Health Precinct is a beacon of inspiration in the urban development landscape and a model of co-operation that is sure to see others follow in its footsteps.

A Window on Health Care Through the Years

The value of the buildings lies not only in the historic style of their design but also in what they can teach us about the development of health care and technology that has shaped high-tech medicine today. When the Johannesburg General Hospital was at its peak, it represented cutting-edge medical care and was in the same league as other well-known hospitals around the globe.

The precinct has an historical association with countless medical students, doctors and nurses who learned their profession at this teaching hospital. The same applies to the thousands of Johannesburg residents who received medical treatment there over a period of nearly 100 years.

The precinct contains one of the finest collections of historic buildings in Johannesburg. It includes buildings to the west of Hospital Street such as the South African Institute for Medical Research, designed by Herbert Baker and Frank Fleming in 1913, said to be based on Christopher Wren's designs in Greenwich, London. Close by is the old Wits Medical School designed by A and W Reid and Delbridge in 1920.

These buildings represent the work of some of South Africa's most renowned architects, including Gordon Leith, Herbert Baker and Wilhelm Pabst, attracting the attention of visitors from all over the world.

Image source: Google

The Hillbrow Health Precinct Today

The site is a dense conglomeration of buildings where the Hillbrow Community Health Centre currently provides a fully functioning hospital service.

Wits RHI has located its head office in the renovated Hugh Solomon Building in Klein Street, following renovations to the buildings undertaken by the Johannesburg Development Agency in 2004. Also within the precinct are several vital health services that provide a focal point for community mobilisation.

Image source: Google

Wits RHI R&T Centre

The Research Centre is a specialist research site providing a purpose-built environment for the conduct of clinical and other research trials. The site has the capacity to recruit and retain hundreds of study participants on a monthly basis and includes a research pharmacy and laboratory on the premises. The laboratory boasts state-of-the-art equipment, backup generators to protect against power outages, and also serves as a training facility for Wits RHI staff studying towards further degrees.

Ward 21

Part of the Hillbrow Community Health Centre, Ward 21, as it is known locally, is the largest non-hospital antiretroviral therapy initiation site in the world, seeing over 4000 patients every month. For many people, a visit to Ward 21 is the first step on the way to a stronger and healthier life after being diagnosed with HIV. Once stable on ART, patients are down-referred to a local clinic for ongoing treatment, care and support.

Hillbrow Community Health Centre

The Hillbrow Community Health Centre is a provincial secondary-level health care facility providing 24-hour casualty services and minor theatre, a polyclinic and outpatient services, psychology and dental care.

Medico Legal Facility

Located within the HCHC, this provides important services to support SAPS and victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

Esselen Street Clinic

The City of Johannesburg’s Esselen Street Clinic handles tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, family planning and HIV counselling and testing. The clinic, a partnership between the City and Wits RHI, sees up to 350 people daily and plans to increase this to up to 1,000. Wits RHI also runs a number of special clinics for vulnerable and marginalised groups such as sex workers and youth within the Esselen Street Clinic.

Wits RHI Shandukani Centre for Maternal & Child Health

The most recent addition is the RHI-Shandukani Maternal and Child Health Centre. A public/private partnership between the Gauteng Department of Health, Vodacom Foundation, Altech, Altron and Wits RHI, the RHI-Shandukani Centre provides expert medical care to pregnant women and children infected with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The Centre is jointly managed by the Gauteng Department of Health and Wits RHI.

Shandukani is a Venda word mean meaning ‘change’ or ‘asking for change’, and the Wits RHI Shandukani project is a flagship public/private partnership that represents support for community clinics, community health programmes and HIV awareness in a truly integrated manner. The facility is developing as a centre of excellence for maternal and child health, for the training of health care providers, community workers and researchers, and a focal point for conducting world-class research on a range of health-related topics of national and regional relevance, including HIV; TB; maternal and child health; infectious diseases; reproductive health; and social science.

The Shandukani project encapsulates the objectives of the Hillbrow Health Precinct which aims to strengthen the delivery of health and social services through the regeneration of disused and deteriorated building stock, thereby increasing the asset value of Department of Health properties.

Development Potential

The development of the precinct has been designed to create an integrated, safe, secure and functional area that will:

  • Attract healthcare providers and related organisation to create a themed hub of innovation, learning and expertise
  • Consolidate the research base and operational connections among stakeholders
  • Enhance existing residential accommodation
  • Create world-class education and training facilities

Wits University has identified five 'urban foyers' where its academic and student offering can be delivered to the community it serves. The Hillbrow Health Precinct has been selected to be one of these Foyers. An Urban Design Framework for the northern portion of the precinct has been generated with the progressional assistance of the University of the Witwatersrand Campus Development and Planning Unit. This will ensure that a coherent and integrated development takes place within the precinct relating to movement, signage, safety, street furniture, landscaping and way-finding. Future plans will see a fully integrated campus-style precinct developed and continued upgrades in order to facilitate improvements in health service delivery and practice.