22 December 2012

Tanzania: Mwinyi Tells Health Workers to Care for Elderly Persons

THE Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi has warned health service providers against using discriminatory language while treating the older generation in the country.

Dr Mwinyi said this on Thursday evening during the opening of a two day stakeholders workshop organised by HelpAge International Tanzania emphasising that the use of bad language is a violation of their rights. "There are reports that there are some health service providers that stigmatise the elderly who seek treatment with statements like 'you are not sick, only old', such behaviour is unacceptable," he said.

Dr Mwinyi reminded districts on the directive that was given by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda in 2010 that all hospitals should dedicate rooms for the elderly. He said that he received a directive from the Premier who asked for a list of the districts that have adhered to the directive and all those who haven't.

"Let me take this opportunity to remind all those districts that haven't done so to dedicate rooms for the elderly and let this serve as a litmus paper that government directives are followed up," he said. Dr Mwinyi said that the government was committed to ensuring that the welfare of the elderly improves.

He mentioned some of the efforts include plans of having a geriatric care unit at the Ministry that will handle the needs of the elderly, and introducing a curriculum on caring as well as free health services for the elderly.

"Government plans to ensure there is greater availability of medicines for treating of elderly, extend the Community Health Fund to them, have district health electronic software as well as train providers at Muhimbili National Hospital as well as other referrals on non-communicable diseases," he said.

Dr Mwinyi commended the Magu District Medical Officer, Dr Athmani Pembe who shared his experience of setting up three dedicated rooms for the elderly and providing identification cards to 15,000 out of 22, 584 elderly persons in the district. One of the elders, Ms Clotilda Kokupima said that she was very encouraged in what the Minister had promised and the efforts of the government in particular the Elders Act whose Bill which is expected to be tabled in this financial year.

Ms Kokupima said that she was looking forward to the day that elders would get pensions without discrimination on whether they worked in the government or not. "One of our biggest challenges comes from leaders who fail to follow directives that are issued by government officials because the orders are not documented. There are areas where free medical services are not given because of this," she said.

Another elderly person, director of the Morogoro Elder Peoples' Organisation, Mr Samson Msemembo lauded Dr Mwinyi for the directive against discriminatory words to elderly persons saying that there is hope now of getting better services. Mr Msemembo said that the announcement of starting a geriatric unit at the Ministry was highly encouraging because it was something that the government had totally forgotten and worse that many doctors don't even know what the word means.

The HelpAge Assistant Country Director, Mr Smart Daniel said that the aim of the two day meeting was to bring districts together to share experiences and learn good practices as well as review the progress of the formulation process of the Act that would govern the rights of the elderly in the country.

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