During June 2020, several voices were raised alleging that residents are fleeing hospitals fearing Covid-19. After interrogating several datasets, we see that the separatist threats had more influence on hospital attendance than the pandemic.
Like wildfire, the false news spread both among the staff of the Bamenda regional hospital and amplified in social networks. This viral news indicated that “attendance at the Bamenda regional hospital has fallen due to Covid-19” . Several staff from this benchmark health facility, including staff, claim to have tried to convince potential patients, but without success, sometimes in the face of malicious comments. “We kill people in this hospital” could be read in some WhatsApp groups.
After consulting several data sets collected and recorded in this hospital, we see that there has not been a substantial drop in patients, whatever the service, due to Covid-19.
Regarding the consultation segment, we note that the number of people received in this health facility did not drop drastically outside of February. In March, which is the month when the first case was detected in Cameroon, there is a slight increase compared to the month before. It is the same for the month of April, period when the first case was detected in the North-West, May and June.
For new cases received at the hospital within the framework of the same consultation, we note all the same that between January 2020 and May of the same year, the hospital received 2,655 new patients. At the same time, during the period in question, in particular April and May, new patients continued to arrive at the hospital.
The same is true of the routine vaccination segment for children. The data indicate, as is the case for consultations, a substantial drop for the month of February 2020. Another drop is also observed in May with a significant rebound in the month of June 2020.
The training increased awareness campaigns calling on parents not to give up vaccination appointments for their offspring. Despite this same period, several false news circulating with insistence and persistence on social networks calling on parents to refuse any vaccine. For these rumors , the WHO would have introduced a test vaccine against Covid-19.
The hospitalization segment also shows a significant decrease during the month of February 2020. However, a slight decrease in April of the same year. However, we see that despite the ups and downs between January and May 2020, the indicators postulate for a slight return to the January rates during the month of May with 1,021 patients hospitalized at the Bamenda regional hospital.
If there is one observation that emerges from consultations, hospitalizations and vaccinations, February appears as the common denominator. Indeed, this month saw a substantial drop in hospital visits by patients.
There are several reasons for this situation. According to Pedmia Shatu, head of digital communication at this health facility, “there was a whole week in the dead city from February 6 to 11,” she explains. To this must be added “the traditional dead Mondays” observed in the two English-speaking regions since the outbreak of the so-called Anglophone crisis.
This month was marked in Cameroon by legislative and municipal elections. The separatist fighters then forbade people to go out, not even to go to hospitals. The secessionist calls which asked the inhabitants to boycott the elections, the political campaigns that went with it, also called for the boycott of the national youth day which is celebrated every February 11 in Cameroon.
Panicked, the populations preferred, as usual, to hide in their homes for fear of reprisals.