Jabulile Nhlapo: Delivering complex multi-disciplinary healthcare projects
Healthcare Lead at WSP in Africa
What are the main trends currently challenging healthcare in Africa?
Although communicable diseases are still a challenge in Africa, there is a significant rise in non-communicable diseases in the continent, such as heart disease and cancer; and this has left healthcare systems unprepared. We have seen a significant increase in the request for upgrades, refurbishments and extensions of hospitals to include specialist oncology units, advanced radiology departments, and theatre extensions and upgrades.
What are the main drivers that are changing healthcare delivery?
Increased digital and mobile access has brought tools such as telemedicine and various online preventative care technologies to the forefront. These have helped to address some of the challenges the continent has relating access to healthcare. The increased drive to make the digital economy more inclusive will help overcome the some of the healthcare infrastructure barriers that Africa has faced for a number of years.
Access to reliable electrical power and water sources is a key challenge. McKinsey & Company have reported that only 7 countries on the continent have electricity-access rates exceeding 50%, those being Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa. The remaining countries have average electrical grid access of about 20%. The demand for renewable energy sources is increasing with a number of healthcare developers and clients looking for ways to privately electrify healthcare facilities. It’s one thing to electrify a primary healthcare clinic, but finding ways to reduce energy consumption and electrify state-of-the-art acute care facilities is far more challenging. One of our engineering design focus areas has been finding ways to develop treatment facilities that are energy-and-water-efficient, whilst still being resilient enough to operate in the most challenging environments.
What aspect of your role in healthcare do you find most rewarding?
Healthcare facilities accommodate patients and their families during some of the most challenging and vulnerable periods in their lives. Designing and delivering patient-centric facilities that not only deliver high quality care, but also focus on creating a comfortable work environment for healthcare workers is rewarding.
If we can deliver facilities that create a healing environment for patients, whilst still finding ways to reduce energy and water consumption, then we have made a contribution towards increasing access to healthcare in the continent; this is very rewarding.
If you were a piece of medical equipment what would you be?
I would be an ultrasound. The ultrasound is a portable technology that has helped the diagnosis of patients in some remote areas. It is being increasingly used in clinics and by community healthcare workers, thus helping in the early diagnosis of disease and in mother-and-childcare during pregnancy.
What job would you choose to do in a hospital?
Medical social worker. Social workers help patients and their families deal with the physical, emotional and financial challenges when they are faced with life-threatening conditions and hospitalization. They support patients and families by talking them through their condition and the recovery process. I believe that this is a very important part of patient care as the mental and emotional well-being of patients and their families can affect their healing process.
Jabulile Nhlapo is a Principal Associate within WSP, Building Services, Africa. A Mechanical Engineer with over 10-years of experience in the property sector, Jabulile has been with WSP for 8 years and leads the WSP Africa Healthcare initiative.
Jabulile’s in-depth understanding and experience of healthcare engineering design and project management includes the engineering design and completion of complex multi-disciplinary healthcare projects both locally in Africa and in the UK. She greatly appreciates the importance of collaboration between a multidisciplinary professional team, which involves the mapping of planning, design, implementation and project management to achieve the best project results in line with the client’s expectations and requirements.
Jabulile was nominated for the South African Professional Services Awards (SAPSA) young professional of the year in 2019. She has had the opportunity to share her healthcare engineering and property experience through multiple public speaking platforms such as the European Healthcare Design Congress in June 2019; The Future of Health Summit (in association with Phillips and Forbes Africa) in October 2018; and CBNC Africa’s Beyond Markets Televised Panel Discussion on Designing Future Cities in August 2018.
Jabulile holds a BSc Mechanical Engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand and an MBA. She is passionate about finding meaningful ways in which the built environment can contribute towards the sustainable economic development of the African continent.