‘In furthering your knowledge, age is no criterion,’ said Dr Devaraj Kistiah Naidoo, UKZN’s oldest graduate who obtained a Masters degree in Family Medicine on 18 April.

The 68-year-old Occupational Health Officer at Addington Hospital said he still has a thirst for knowledge and when there is room for furthering his studies, he will consider his options. 

For his Masters, Naidoo conducted a study titled “An evaluation of the Triage Early Warning Score (TEWS) in an Urban Accident and Emergency Department in Kwazulu-Natal”. He observed that although clinicians are traditionally well trained in history taking and physical examination, in accident and emergency departments where patients with critical injuries often require timeous attention to prevent avoidable deterioration of their condition, there is a gap between suboptimal care and good care which can be improved for better outcomes.

He said delayed or poor action in response to observed abnormal physiological parameters might lead to avoidable and unexpected death.

‘Identifying patients at risk of deterioration at an early stage by means of simple guidelines based on physiological parameters may reduce the number of resuscitation procedures in emergency rooms.  A common error is the assumption that a patient who is sitting up in bed and talking is not critically ill,’ he said.

Supervised by Dr Clive Rangiah, specialist in the Discipline of Family Medicine, Naidoo’s study evaluated a triage tool that will enable rapid screening of patients and facilitate earlier intervention.

Findings from the study pointed to TEWS as a useful and appropriate risk-management tool that optimises the quality and safety of patients in the emergency department. ‘It allows for earlier interventions that will lead to improved quality of care and decreased morbidity and mortality,’ said Naidoo.

Naidoo said that the challenge remains in the acceptance of the system by healthcare workers as well as relevant authorities. He said appropriate training in measurement of essential physiological parameters and the use of these measurements in determining correct scores will add value to patient care in emergency units.

‘As a Medical Manager I became aware of the challenges experienced in emergency departments regarding rapid assessments and treatment of patients.’

Naidoo has worked for the Department of Health for 31 years. He acquired experience as a Casualty Officer at Clairwood Hospital, King Edward VIII Hospital, Osindisweni Hospital, RK Khan Hospital and Wentworth Hospital.

He moved up the ranks from being a Medical Superintendent to Acting Chief Medical Superintendent at King Edward VIII Hospital. In 1998 he was appointed Medical Manager of Addington Hospital.

Naidoo said his Masters degree was a source of joy and pride. ‘My spouse was at the forefront and a constant reminder for me to complete my goal.’

Naidoo made sure that he did not neglect his day-to-day work in pursuit of his academic ambitions.

Naidoo’s second daughter also graduated this year from UKZN with a Masters in Maritime Law while his eldest daughter is a UKZN Chemical Engineering graduate.

His personal motto is, ‘Strive to seek to find and not to yield’, and his hobbies include travelling, carpentry and working with electrical appliances.

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