Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Cameroon in March 2020, hospital attendance rates have dropped by half. This was revealed on September 30, 2020, by Dr. Linda Esso (Sub-director for the Fight against Epidemics and Pandemics, Ministry of Public Health, Cameroon).
“Compared with last years’ figures, we have recorded a drop by half, of the population’s hospital attendance rate for essential health services like vaccination, external consultations, and prenatal visits. This is probably due to the fear and stigmatization related to the coronavirus pandemic,” Linda Esso said during the daily press briefing on the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic.
This reduction in hospital attendance rate exposes Cameroon to another threat: the resurgence of other infectious diseases like polio, cholera, meningitis, and smallpox. Doctors and health practitioners recently raised the alarm about the situation since residents sometimes do not go to hospitals even for serious diseases, since the start of the pandemic in Cameroon.
"We have lost over 40% of our clientèle whose main services are pre-natal checks and pediatrics. We are experiencing a shortage of clients, which is prejudicial for the hospital’s cash flow," Pr Émile Mboudou (General Director of the gyneco-obstetric and pediatric Hospital of Douala) said to the government daily Cameroon tribune. The pediatric hospital is mainly affected because it was selected to be one of the health centers to host COVID-19 patients since residents are not well aware of how the disease is transmitted.
“The number of checks has dropped by half, the number of deliveries have decreased and attendance is at its lowest. The number of hospitalized patients is around 15%. Emergencies have been abandoned and the medical staff is idle except for those attending to COVID-19 patients,” Pr Louis Richard Njock (who was general director of Laquintinie hospital but is now General Secretary at the Ministry of Public Health) said in May 2020. "Covid-19 has not suppressed other diseases," he added.
Health authorities, therefore, ask residents to come to hospitals for appropriate care and checkups. "Since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic (…), the health system has been reinforced to ensure the continuity of essential health care and services. Also, authorities modified the structure of health centers in a bid to decentralize the response strategy to provide the most appropriate health services to the population. The health staff is always present to safely offer healthcare," Dr. Esso assures.
On September 23, 2020, the country had officially confirmed 20,712 positive cases, of which 19,440 have recovered and 418 died.