Older people treated with disrespect by hospital staff, says report

By Henry Neondo

A monitoring project on older people in Tanzania reveals that medical staff in health centres often treat them disrespectfully by talking to them in a mocking tone.

A three-year older Citizen’s Monitoring project since 2002 and set up to monitor older people’s access to health services says that older people in Tanzania are concerned about the quality of health care they receive, the cost of treatment and medicine, and the distance they travel to services.

One older person was told by hospital staff, “Go home you are not ill just old.” As part of the project, they were asked to monitor and log their experiences during every hospital visit.

According to the project findings, 40 per cent of the studied said the tone of language used by medical staff was mocking, 94 per cent were charged for the consultation and 30 per cent were not aware of how to apply for free health care.

Most annoying to over a third of them had to wait 4 to 6 hours to see a doctor and under half had to pay for their own fare to get to the hospital.

The project was launched in two areas in the country, Arusha and Dodoma and aimed at increasing older people’s participation in gathering information, forming supporting networks, developing confidence and approaches in talking to governments, and challenging authorities about their rights, including access to basic services.

As a result of the project and the involvement of older people in the monitoring process, local government in the "Mosquito River" ward, has granted free health treatment to all vulnerable older people.

Moduli district funds the free health service for older people through the Community Health Fund. Criteria for vulnerability include disability, severe health problems, and if an older person is living alone.

The welfare committee at hamlet level makes the respective recommendation to the ward executive secretary, who then issues letters for these older people to grant them free access to the local health services. Once received the letter is valid for life.

The project has also given older people a sense of respect and many said they now felt that their concerns were being listened to.

They also felt that the project created support for older people at local village level and other areas of concern could now be addressed.

HelpAge International is simultaneously running similar projects in Bangladesh, Kenya, Bolivia and Jamaica.

Partner organizations from all of these Older Citizen‘s Monitoring projects will met from May 16 - 20 in Arusha and shared their findings and experiences.


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