Some health facilities in Cameroon are turning to telemedicine as patients have been keeping away from and fleeing medical facilities for fear of contracting the coronavirus Covid-19, which has so far killed 313 people in the country.
Cameroon reported its first case of the virus on March 6 and as at Wednesday had 12,592 confirmed cases with 10,100 recoveries, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
Early this month, Dr Manaouda Malachie, Cameroon’s minister of Public Health, said patients have fled health facilities following the daily spike in the number of Covid-19 cases especially in the towns of Bamenda, Bafoussam, Douala and the capital Yaoundé.
Mr Edwin Biyeh Abi, Country Manager of Unite for Health Foundation, a local NGO that assists Cameroonians to access healthcare through its micro-clinics, said there has been a drastic decline in the number of patients visiting their health centres since the coronavirus figures soared.
Even pregnant women are not going for routine prenatal care visits, he said.
As a result of the far-reaching drop in patient turnover, the organisation, which operates two clinics in the capital Yaoundé and one in Bamenda in the Northwest, said it has resorted to telemedicine.
“We have decided to launch a telemedicine programme to permit those in the communities we serve to be able to use their phone and reach out to us either through direct phone call or video calls to consult with our doctors and get the best of advice on what to do about their health,” Mr Abi said.
The telemedicine programme will also be used to screen for and educate patients on Covid-19.
“We do not want to let the Covid-19 emergency separate pregnant women, mothers and children from our urgent, life-saving medical care or disease prevention programmes. Both are absolutely critical to the public health of thousands of Cameroonians,” Mr Abi said.
Several other health facilities, including Blessed Hand Clinic in Yaoundé, have also adopted telemedicine.
The central African country has been struggling with the pandemic with a fragile healthcare system and limited financial resources.