Globally there is also continuous drive for efficiency and cost reduction, as well as increasing need for resilience to climate change and future energy and water scarcity. There is also growing understanding that the environment in which patients are treated and cared for is a significant contributing factor to the healing process. Patient-centric design is therefore a key ingredient in a successful healthcare facility.
“If we look at healthcare centres being built worldwide, there are a number of innovative architectural elements and sustainable design principles being incorporated. In Africa, there are some Government-led and private hospital group projects that are adopting these principles, to create world class hospitals. Though, largely, we still seem to be falling behind this modern global trend and often, this can be attributed to concerns over delivering a project within budget. However, we need to break free of this way of thinking,” says Swanepoel.
“In the commercial property space, building for efficiency, sustainability and climate change resistance has already been proven to boast significant return on investment. Added to this, in remote corners of Africa there are limitations on basic service infrastructure – including water and power – to contend with. As such, there is so much evidence to support the value of incorporating sustainability best practice and renewable energy solutions to improve the quality of hospital design. Moving away from the principle of big concrete blocks that have a surgical and clinical feel, to instead create well-designed, functional spaces that are patient-centric, is both economically and sustainably sound,” indicates Swanepoel.
High performance hospitals and medical facilities may be rated and attain excellence across multiple measures of performance, from energy-efficient building systems to improved clinical outcomes, and enhanced patient and staff wellbeing, for instance. These built projects are designed based on the patient-centric approach, for a better experience and to deliver value and return-on-investment across the board.
New approaches to deliver healthcare to rural Africa
Swanepoel believes there is definite scope in Africa but that high-tech and high-performance hospitals that deliver state-of-the-art care shouldn’t be the sole focus. “In Africa, there are many remote and rural areas that are well populated, but where access to healthcare is severely limited or entirely lacking. In such cases, it may be better to adopt a more decentralised approach to healthcare that delivers services to a larger number of smaller facilities.”
One growing European trend is the move away from traditional thinking of mega hospitals (hundreds to a thousand beds) towards more day clinics, which are smaller, and more specialised. “This approach offers significant opportunities in Africa, where more medical centres can be built – with the aim of providing highly efficient delivery of core healthcare services for people living in remote areas,” states Swanepoel.
Key to the success of such an approach will depend on prioritising spending on specialised medical centres and finding the most cost effective and efficient manor to roll out day clinics in a networked series, across wider geographic areas.
Swanepoel indicates that there are already examples in Africa of prefabricated solutions for day clinics. “Such solutions include high performing, insulated, fire resistant, modular wall systems. These are easy to assemble and fully kitted, to ensure they meet all the necessary hygiene requirements for the health codes. With these prefabricated solutions we can come up with a standardised design, as well as blueprints for any ancillary buildings, which can significantly assist in managing development cost, delivery and quality assurance.”
In Africa, innovation is about balance – and more often about the approach taken than the materials or technology used. There are certainly hubs of wealth and urbanisation with capacity to deliver more developed world solutions and facilities. At the same time, there are communities in remote areas that need access to basic healthcare services and medicine – where it is just as important to look at innovative approaches to deliver the basics well.
“There are many lessons to be found in studying global trends in healthcare infrastructure – and adopting a nuanced approach to the medical and hospital facilities we are building in Africa will make a massive, positive impact on the delivery of health services that are suited to the communities they will serve. These facilities that can be effective, sustainable and future ready,” concludes Swanepoel.