The U.N. Population Fund says many women are reluctant to seek medical care at health facilities for fear they may be exposed to the coronavirus. In Cameroon, a nonprofit group of doctors has started to make home visits, the first program of its kind in the country.
25-year-old Jeanne Ngono said she has a health condition that requires regular monitoring.
But she’s hasn’t been to the hospital for four months because she’s afraid of being exposed to the coronavirus.
Instead, a doctor from nonprofit group SOS Doctors Cameroon is visiting her at home.
She said she feels safe at home compared to the hospital. When you go to the hospital, said Ngono, you don’t know who you’re going to meet on the way; the taxis you’ll take; who is sick or not.
Like Ngono, many people around the world are afraid to go to hospitals, according to the U.N. Population Fund.
Medical experts say they understand this but urge patients to continue to stay in touch with doctors and hospitals.
Doctor Jean-Berthelot Zambo is with Cameroon’s National College of Doctors.
He said if there are initiatives that can add value, they should not be rejected. But in his humble opinion, said Zambo, the hospital remains the best place where diagnosis can be made and the patients well oriented.
The group SOS Doctors Cameroon includes 30 doctors in five cities. Patients can ask for a consultation on the group’s website or Facebook page. A visit costs about $34, twice the price of a hospital consultation.
Despite the cost, SOS Doctors Cameroon said requests for home visits have jumped from about 20 in March to about 100 per month.
And the medical aid group is continuing to find new ways to provide service, said SOS Doctors Cameroon President Dr. Fernand Ombolo.
He said they realized that it was mostly routine consultations. So, it gave them the idea to set up a remote assistance service, which is done by WhatsApp, says Ombolo. It allows patients to chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a doctor, he said, and to ask any type of medical question.
The demand is expected to only grow. Cameroon has confirmed nearly 10,000 COVID-19 cases, one the highest number of known infections in Africa.