Dr Somasundram Pillay, UKZN Specialist Physician and Blue Firm Internal Medicine Head at Edendale Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, clinched two awards at the MEC’s Annual Service Excellence Awards (MASEA) which seek to reward and recognise public healthcare servants who deliver above expectation.

The MASEA’s were held at the Durban International Convention Centre on Friday, 1 June 2018.

Pillay, affectionately known to his peers and patients as “Soma”, won the MEC’s Special Health Recognition Award for his work in improving diabetes care in resource-limited developing world settings and was also second runner-up for the KwaZulu-Natal Doctor of the Year award.

‘I felt very privileged to be runner-up for the Doctor of the Year award also,’ said Dr Pillay. ‘This is confirmation that my work in improving diabetes care and control in resource-limited settings is being appreciated and acknowledged by the Department of Health,’ he said.

Pillay, whose research-work focuses on methods to improve diabetes care in resource-limited settings, set up the Edendale Hospital Diabetes Clinic in 2012. Part of the project was the introduction of a multidisciplinary team together with an improved data collection system which involves a datasheet completed in triplicate for every patient consulted in the clinic, an ink-based stamp completed by the nursing staff to ensure that every patient has the required vital signs performed and finally, a specialised computer programme designed using VB.net and .net technologies to capture all demographic, clinical and biochemical patient data. The programme can be used for auditing purposes to improve diabetes control and hence decrease diabetes-related complications.

Results of this study have indicated an improvement of diabetes control with these interventions. This serves as a blueprint for other resource-limited clinics in developing world countries to follow.

A previous study conducted by Pillay, which examined the burden of diabetes in KwaZulu-Natal over a five-year period (2010-2014), demonstrated that the majority of patients with diabetes in the province are diagnosed and have their treatment initiated at local clinic level. Pillay said more equipment as well as staff resources and education were needed to help relieve the burden of diabetes. Simple yet effective methods, like the one introduced into the Edendale Hospital Diabetes Clinic, needed to be replicated throughout the province and the country to help decrease the burden of this deadly disease on patients and the country’s economy.

The foundation of Pillay’s Diabetes Clinic blueprint is that each and every patient is seen in a comprehensive and structured manner and that no important areas for diabetes care are omitted.

‘Integral to this approach is ongoing clinician and nurse re-education on the management of diabetes. Patients are consulted in a holistic way. Common areas of error involve omission of the examination of patients’ eyes and feet. These areas, among others, are highlighted at the clinic so that care is optimal and complications are minimised,’ said Pillay.

Words: Lihle Sosibo