Esselen Clinic in Hillbrow is undergoing a major upgrade to meet the needs of inner city Joburg’s growing population – and to be prepared for growth in demand once the City’s Corridors of Freedom initiative starts kicking in.

Esselen Clinic prior to the upgradeEsselen Clinic prior to the upgrade. The building is over 70 years old and was originally designed as a maternity hospital. (Photo: Ntsika Architects)The revamp of the building, which is over 70 years old and was originally designed as a maternity hospital, will see two entire floors being upgraded to provide easier access and better facilities for patients and staff.

During a recent interview, Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) Development Manager Jocelyn Davids, who is overseeing the project, said the aim is to raise the standard of health care services for residents in Hillbrow and surrounding areas.

“The objective is to transform the way Esselen Clinic delivers health care to the community,” Davids said. “Hence we need to upgrade the building, reorganise the space, as well as put in place new facilities.”

The upgraded facility will incorporate 20 consulting rooms, a urine testing room, pharmacy, kitchen, changing rooms, linen room, and isolation units

The new courtyard areaThe new courtyard area will provide additional waiting space for patients. (Image: Ntsika Architects)It will also have four spacious waiting areas spread around the clinic, and – in case these become fully occupied at any time – a new courtyard area where patients will be able to sit while they wait for treatment. “The waiting areas will accommodate 250 patients, and the courtyard will be used to accommodate any overflow,” Davids said.

“The clinic is going to be user user-friendly and will accommodate everyone,” she stressed. “No one will have to stand, and the waiting period for patients will be shorter than before.”

To ease the flow of movement for both patients and staff, a new ramp will connect the two busiest floors of the clinic, while some internal walls will be demolished to open up additional space.

The upgrade work is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2016.

The courtyard area before the upgrade work beganThe courtyard area before the upgrade work began. (Photo: Ntsika Architects)Gabriel Mareme from Ntsika Architects, the company responsible for designing the building, said the city’s swelling population was putting increasing pressure on the old clinic, with overcrowding and poor ventilation making life uncomfortable for doctors, nurses and patients.

The clinic had become “a bit dirty and over-crowded, with a distinctive smell of gas from the pipes, and waiting areas right in the path way of walkways,” Mareme said. The upgraded facility would make Hillbrow home to “one the best, most state-of-the-art clinics in Johannesburg.”

A partnership between the City of Joburg and Wits University’s Reproductive Health Research Unit, Esselen Clinic is situated on Esselen Street between Klein and Clarendon streets, on a Rea Vaya rapid transit (BRT) route through the inner city.

Along with the Noordgesig, Orchards and Westbury clinics, Esselen is one of four clinics that the JDA is busy upgrading or rebuilding along the City’s emerging Corridors of Freedom.

The new clinics will cater not only for communities currently resident in their vicinity, but for the growth in population density expected along the Corridors once the programme starts to gain traction.

The Corridors initiative seeks to bring the racially divided suburbs of the apartheid era closer to each other – and to places of work, study and leisure – through the establishment of strategic transport arteries that link up targeted areas characterised by mixed-use development and affordable, high-density housing.

The new clinics form part of the infrastructure that the City will be rolling out along the Corridors over the coming years, with the aim of cutting down on the valuable hours that commuters currently have to spend getting to and from their workplace, school, university – or nearest doctor.