Prince Mshiyeni head takes new job at UFS

Professor Niren (Ray) Maharaj the former head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital in Umlazi recently received the Health Excellence Award. | Supplied

Professor Niren (Ray) Maharaj the former head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital in Umlazi recently received the Health Excellence Award. | Supplied

Published Feb 14, 2024


Durban — One of the province's most senior physicians who was passionate about finding the reasons and solutions to the high teenage pregnancy rate in KwaZulu-Natal has resigned to take up a post in the Free State.

Professor Niren (Ray) Maharaj the long-serving head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi and lecturer at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal commenced his new duties this month.

He is now the Academic Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Free State, where he will also serve as Head at Universitas Academic Hospital and take on the provincial headship.

Maharaj led the maternity unit at Prince Mshiyeni hospital, one of the busiest in the country with at least 1000 births a month.

In January he again voiced his concerns about the impact of teenage pregnancies after it emerged that a huge percentage of those who became mothers over the Christmas and New Year’s period were still children. “Teenage pregnancies add to the challenges facing state hospitals, particularly maternity units, as ideally they should have been prevented,” Maharaj said at the time. He also highlighted the health and societal risks associated with giving birth at a young age and said more research was needed into the phenomenon.

Talking about some of the memorable moments and experiences at Prince Mshiyeni, Maharaj said: “On my arrival to the department I recall my shock at finding a single full-time medical officer, a few sessional doctors, and a few interns to manage a delivery output of over 1200 births every month. I also recall the experience of riding a bicycle at 6am to fetch blood test results from the laboratory, as we did not have online systems for test results at the time,” said Maharaj.

He said all the doctors chipped in to buy the bicycle and the experience would remain “etched in the memories of those who shared the experience.”

Maharaj said his decision to join the academic department at the University of the Free State was about the need to “navigate obstacles to one’s progress and embrace exploration and adventure to achieve professional growth.”

He believed that the institution's vision aligned with his commitment to progressive teaching and learning, and the transition from a regional hospital to a quaternary-level hospital at Universitas presented exciting new challenges and learning opportunities from a clinical governance perspective.

The medic and lifelong learner who has earned an array of qualifications, most recently a Master of Laws degree underscored the value of a diverse education portfolio. Maharaj said continuous knowledge acquisition across a broad educational spectrum was important for true academic excellence. And, drawing inspiration from global academics, he emphasised the ability to engage, communicate, and debate inter-professionally as essential qualities.

However, he has also expressed concern about what he terms “the outdated Flexnerian curriculum in medical education” instead urging for a shift towards embracing modern technology, artificial intelligence, inter-professional education and lifelong learning. According to Maharaj the existing model has distinct advantages, but has led to the development of a ‘silo mentality’ within the medical profession in which the holistic management of the patient has received less focus.

Instead, he envisions a modern curriculum where new information technology systems and public health initiatives are integrated to achieve holistic health care at individual and societal levels.

Maharaj acknowledged his late father as well as the many teachers and academics who had played a pivotal role in his development. He said that beyond academic prowess, he admired their collective contributions to improving healthcare at a societal level.

Sunday Tribune