Hillbrow Health Precinct

The Hillbrow Health Precinct is a development that seeks to create a visionary health precinct addressing HIV and related diseases, poverty and urban renewal in Johannesburg’s inner city. Wits RHI has a commitment to work with the inner-city community around the provision of health services and issues of social transformation. Wits RHI recognises that efforts of this nature are crucial to addressing the long-term challenges we face as a country. The partners are the Gauteng Department of Health, the City of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand represented by Wits RHI.

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.
To date, Wits RHI partnership with the Gauteng Department of Health, City of Johannesburg (CoJ) Health Services and Wits University has enabled the repurposing of a number of structures within the area surrounding the Hillbrow Community Health Clinic which is run by the Gauteng Department of Health, and adjacent to the Esselen Street Clinic a primary health care (PHC) clinic run by the City of Johannesburg Health Services.

Image source: Google

The Hugh Solomon Building

This building was renovated with funding from the Johannesburg Development Agency and a corporate donor in 2006. It serves as the Wits RHI’s central headquarters and houses about 190 staff and facilities that double as training venues and expanded meeting spaces.

The Wits RHI @ 7 Esselen

This 8 storey building is currently housing multiple research projects. The building is equipped with pharmacies, laboratories, clinical consultation spaces and data storage rooms.

Wits RHI Ward 21 Clinical Research Site

Ward 21 houses a Gauteng Department of Health ARV Clinic and pharmacy on the ground and first floors. The second floor houses a research site which was approved in 2016 as a Division of AIDS approved clinical research site housing data, laboratory, clinical and a SA Pharmacy council and DAIDS-approved pharmacy space.

Wits RHI Health Centre @ 15 Esselen

Formerly housed within the Esselen Street Clinic, the site is a specialised site, offering HIV testing and counselling, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and accelerated access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) to female, male, transgender participants and sex workers. The nurse driven service is provided by a team comprising professional nurses, community health workers and peer educators (current or former sex workers responsible for outreach to the sex worker population).

Wits RHI Shandukani Research Centre

Opened in mid-2012 and is located on the top floor of a purpose-built Maternal, Child and Adolescent Centre, a public private partnership initiative supported by provincial health authorities, private sector partners and Wits RHI. The Centre provides secondary level and specialised health services for women, adolescents and children, and includes a 24-hour midwife-led obstetric unit. The ground and first floors house the Department of Health Hillbrow Community Health Clinics Maternity Unit and the Antenatal Care unit.

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.