Davide de Conceição is a Namati health advocate in Mozambique, supporting a busy facility in Inhambane Province. In 2016, he began hearing complaints from elderly patients about the lack of courtesy and respect they were shown during their clinic visits. Ministry of Health policy states that elderly patients should receive priority attention at health facilities, and should not be subjected long waits to be seen, but the patients Davide spoke with reported being neglected, even mistreated.
71-year-old Rosita was one such patient. “We were not treated well,” she says.
“We were forgotten. I would leave my home at 4:30 a.m. to arrive at the health center by six, but often I waited until 11 to be seen. They had no respect for old people. They would say to us, ‘You’re practically dead. Why are you here? You’re just taking up space.'”
Davide observed first-hand this lack of adherence to the Ministry of Health policy and knew the risks to patient health it posed. Long lines and poor treatment can make patients like Rosita significantly less likely to return to health facilities in the future.
Working alongside members of the village health committee, Davide began a campaign to sensitize health workers to the needs of their elderly patients and the health risks of ignoring them. They also focused on raising rights awareness through door-to-door home visits and regular group educational talks at health facilities and in communities.
Additionally, Davide and the health committee advocated for a crucial change to the health center waiting area–a bench designated exclusively for elderly patients and those who are gravely ill. This simple resolution helps ensure priority patients are easily identifiable to the busy clinic staff so that patients like Rosita can get the care they deserve.
The leadership of the health facility liked the bench idea so much, they took the initiative to inform a nearby health center under their supervision that it should institute the same practice.