Magu: The “yes we can” district
‘'When we go to health facilities, we're not treated well and we queue for hours. Even though the Government has a mandate to provide free healthcare, we don't have ID cards to access it and health workers' still have negative attitudes towards us.''
Such complaints might be history in Magu district as, this week, a dedicated space for older people within the District Hospital was opened.
Magu is also only the second district (after Mpanda) to issue ID cards to all older people to support them in accessing healthcare.
Key achievements in helping older people access healthcare
‘'We have reached 50% of our target by taking photos of over 11,000 older people in order to issue them ID cards," said Naomi Nnko, the District Executive Director. She also listed other key achievements as she spoke to the crowd that had gathered to mark the occasion. These include:
- Two doctors, three nurses and one eye clinician have been trained and assigned to support older people's healthcare needs.
- A wing of the District hospital is now dedicated to older people's needs and includes a comfortable sitting area, an examination room and a room for dispensing drugs.
- 550 households headed by older people will be supported through a Community Health Fund of Tsh 550,000 (US$370).
- Older people's forums in 55 villages will be set up and trained in leadership and networking skills.
- 420 ID cards were given to older people at the event. By June, the total number of cards distributed to older people will reach 15,000. The next stage of the district's plan is to provide all the 22,584 older people in the district with ID cards.
A model that can be used across Africa
What has been achieved in Magu using the revenue generated from the district is a model that needs to be replicated in the entire country and maybe even across Africa. As a key partner and champion of equitable access to healthcare services for older people, HelpAge was invited to the celebration. We congratulated the district for pioneering this initiative, which will be a positive model to address the inequality in access to health services.
Magu's Regional Commissioner has since instructed all other districts in Mwanza region to emulate the model. Hopefully this is the first step towards more older people in Tanzania enjoying their right to free healthcare.
No more waiting in line
The colourful event included traditional dances and a play which highlighted how the lack of ID cards hampers older people's access to healthcare. Older people were also there to receive their ID cards.
"The long wait for the ID card was worth it. It means no longer waiting in a queue when we next visit the hospital," commented an older man, full of smiles.
This achievement is the result of years' of work by HelpAge and our partners who have consistently advocated for improved access to healthcare for older people. Initially, this resulted in the directives issued by the Prime Minister to provide free healthcare for all older people.
We have also reached other milestones in this process including a specialised geriatric desk within the Ministry of Health being established.
As the Regional Commissioner for the District, Jacqueline Lyiana put it: "We are the ‘yes we can' district".
Find out more about our work supporting older people and their access to healthcare.