The lives of several Cameroonians are now at risk as few hospitals are now willing to receive patients suffering from other ailments.
Given that any cough, running nostrils, fever and difficulties in breathing among others are now associated with the novel coronavirus, those who fall sick in Cameroon now have to face challenges beyond their ailments.
Many are those who have either died at home for fear of being erroneously tagged a COVID-19 patient or for being of undergoing stigma from relatives and some health workers.
A local in Douala says his elder brother had severe fever, but died at home because several hospitals in Cameroon’s economic capital failed to admit him for treatment.
“My brother suddenly fell ill. When he got to the hospital, instead of the nurses attending to him, his case was handled as those of other coronavirus patients. He was told to return home and self-isolate himself without any diagnosis. For fear of being declared COVID-19 positive, he remained at home and died,” Nelson tells MMI in tears.
Deceased Covid-19 patients are handed to authorities for immediate burial and many families do not want their loved one to go through that. This had led to countless scandals and standoffs between hospital staff, security forces and bereaved families.
“My aunt was an asthmatic patient. Since she had breathing problems, she was avoided by the nurses in Bamenda. She died days after at home,” another source, whose aunt died on Saturday, told Mimi Mefo Info.
The constant rejection of patients because of fears of contracting COVID-19 is becoming a bigger health crisis in Cameroon.
The country now has over 5900 coronavirus cases with 191 deaths – but the little attention paid to other diseases not related to the pandemic is likely to cause the death of hundreds.
The country’s testing capacity is weak – only two out of ten regions have treatment centres for the virus.
Patients in far off regions have to travel for several kilometres to be attended to, and in most cases, have slim chances of survival.
Quizzed on what could make doctors who are there to save lives turn their backs on patients, medical student Kingsley Ndi says health care workers “lack personal protective equipment”.
“We have been on internship in hospitals. The condition under which doctors operate is deplorable; they abandoned patients to us because they feared being contaminated. We were not also given protective kits,” he told MMI.
Mimi Mefo Info