Audiology Team Receives MEC Award for Service Excellence
A team of Audiologists led by UKZN masters candidate, Ms Karen Pillay, has received an MEC Award for Service Excellence after improving best practices for auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing at the Ladysmith Hospital.
Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, applauded the team for an innovation that is putting paediatric patients undergoing the tests in the uThukela District less at risk. The ABR test provides information about the inner ear and brain pathways for hearing.
‘Ladysmith Hospital is the first government hospital in KwaZulu-Natal to conduct ABR testing in the operating theatre, putting patient safety above everything else,’ said Pillay.
Pillay was employed at the hospital from 2007 to May this year, being the first permanent Audiologist there and later Chief Audiologist. She said the team grew to four permanent Audiologists and one community service Audiologist; making it the biggest Audiology department in KwaZulu-Natal.
Previously children who had to undergo the test needed to take an oral sedation which has associated health risks. ‘The test takes about an hour during which the patient is in a deep state of sleep. Audiologists are not trained to monitor sedated patients nor are they trained in paediatric resuscitation if an emergency occurs with these patients,’ Pillay explained.
After evaluating the risks involved, Pillay approached the anaesthetic and paediatric teams, including hospital management, to consider conducting these assessments in an operating theatre where these patients would be closely monitored.
‘The method of conducting objective hearing assessments in the theatre setting was bench marked from Audiologists working in the private sector as well as in first world settings. Audiologists from developed countries have moved away from oral sedation of ABR patients due to the high risks involved,’ Pillay said.
Their project highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and allowed other stakeholders to identify that they had the ability to practise First World methods within under-resourced communities, putting the patients’ safety first.
Pillay said: ‘It was a great privilege to win this award. This project, although not directly related to my thesis, allowed me to conduct objective hearing assessments on paediatric patients with inherited deafness.’
Pillay said she was passionate about Audiology, helping patients with hearing loss and pursuing a PhD. Her Masters research, co-supervised by Dr Colleen Aldous and Dr Neethie Joseph, is focused on inherited deafness.