What we do
The Western Cape Provincial Health Data Centre (PHDC) is a trusted data environment for person-level health data, primarily oriented around supporting quality health service delivery to public sector health care users. It functions as an operational Health Information Exchange, drawing in data from a multitude of source systems, linking data on a unique health identifier as well as other personal identifiers, and processing data to develop the richest picture possible of the health conditions and health status of each individual. The PHDC is probably the only public sector example in the region which is able to hold and process data representative of the entire population using the public sector, and in the case of certain health conditions such as COVID-19, the entire provincial population. For more details see this link: https://ijpds.org/article/view/1143
The PHDC has three main areas against which we recruit:
The database engineering team responsible for the database infrastructure, performance, security, auditability, and overall architecture, covering our core SQL Server operational databases, but also other data stores used by specific applications and processes, including MySQL, MongoDB, Couchbase, and various cloud storage solutions.
The analytics team which includes clusters working on specific health conditions (infectious diseases such as HIV, TB, COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance; maternal and child health; injuries, trauma and safety; and chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy, mental health). This is somewhere between traditional SQL development and data science, and requires in depth domain engagement. It includes people who have come from academic technical backgrounds (bioinformatics, demography, epidemiology, biostatistics) who have learned the SQL and programming skills, and developers or engineers who have gained the domain knowledge over time.
The software team who look after an electronic health record application for clinicians, a patient-facing mobile application, and an application used by community health workers who visit households. This is a traditional software team with a product owner, BAs, team lead, developers at various levels of seniority, and testing and QA staff.
Why Work For Us
It can be motivating to apply technical expertise in an environment which directly seeks to improve the lives of others, and we have found that our environment is a good fit for professionals who are seeking relevance in what they do, and are interested in a balance between technical application and becoming knowledgeable about health and health care. The department is highly focused on positively impacting the operations of the department of health, and supporting analyses and research which advance healthcare.
Most members of the team are self-motivated and operate co-operatively with colleagues, and respectfully seek and offer support as needed. We endeavor to support personal professional development (many of our staff are enrolled in post-graduate studies), and to help steer individuals to areas of work which suit their skills and passions.
The team was almost entirely remote during COVID-19, and is best described now as hybrid, being mostly remote but with specific in-person engagements based on need or deliberately to maintain or build team cohesion.
Our Engineering Processes
We work within the broader government IT infrastructure, which has high levels of corporate oversight and mature governance. This has migrated in recent years to being almost entirely cloud-based, working with a combination of IaaS and PaaS technologies in Microsoft Azure. Within the environments provisions to the PHDC, the engineering team has autonomy, and they engage with the corporate processes as required. Increasingly, we are using a range of technologies based on the best tools for the job, with increasing use of python and R alongside the historical SQL instances. We endeavor to support a range of reporting technologies, including PowerBI, SSRS, R-Server, Grafana, and others. The software team follow a traditional agile SDLC process.
Our Hiring Process
The PHDC is an innovative and fast-changing environment, with posts funded through a range of government, donor and research mechanisms. The hiring processes may differ slightly depending on the funding source, but ultimately involves a light touch exploration of fit, a more detailed interview and technical assessment process, and a final confirmatory interview. Most individuals are employed on contracts on durations related to the funding source, which can be a deterrent for those wanting the job security of permanent appointments. The PHDC has however been able to sustain appointments for 8 years and counting. Most staff are highly sought after in the market but are choosing to work at the PHDC due to alignment with aspirations, and have not been deterred by rolling contracts.