COVID-19: Misinformation and Denial Syndrome fuels boycott of the Bamenda Regional Hospital
The Director of the Bamenda Regional Hospital, Dr. Denis Nsame Nforniwe who also doubles as the chief of the section for Covid-19 diagnoses and management, has affirmed the boycott of the Bamenda Regional Hospital by patients due to the Covid-19 scare.
NWR Covid-19 Solidarity Ward
It has been two months since the first case of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic was announced in the North West Region. The region is currently at the second phase – community transmission with denial, fear and stigma causing many inhabitants to shy away from the Bamenda Regional Hospital. A motive Dr. Denis Nsame confirms as a risk factor in the rise of infected Covid-19 cases in the region.
As of this report, COVID-19 has hit 8 health districts in the region (Bamenda, Mbengwi, Tubah, Bali, Ndop, Fundong, Wum and Batibo), with 179 confirmed cases including 29 corpses, 109 active cases, 35 recovered cases, 39 deads and 44 infected persons currently receiving treatment at home.
The rapid increase of this virus coupled with misinformation on how Covid-19 cases are managed at the hospital, also encourages the attitude of residents boycotting the hospital.
In the month of May 2020, consultation at the hospital declined from 300 to 200 persons.
“It is true people are running away from the hospital thus turning to auto-medication because they are afraid. Some people have mild symptoms and are rather taking ginger, turmeric and others. Some run to small clinics in the neighborhood and infects others. They run to us when they start having severe symptoms and need oxygen. At this level, it is too late. We lost one person who took 3 tanks of oxygen but it was too late. Others stay and die at home thereby exposing other family members to the virus,” Dr. Denis said.
« It is better to come early and know your status so you can begin treatment. Those running treatment centers at home without prevention are also exposing themselves to the virus. » Dr. Denis added.
The community perception of all health issues, automatically transformed into Covid-19, further scares many away from the hospital.
Stephanie Tifuh, a hairdresser fell ill in May 2020, high fever and cough but the thought of having Covid-19, sent her to a local drug store in her neighborhood.
“I battled with myself for days on whether to consult at the Bamenda regional hospital or not. It traumatized me so I put myself at risk by taking auto-medication to deal with the fever and consulted only the cough at the hospital.”
Amanhwi Jenevive, a student in Bamenda, preferred consulting at a different hospital than the regional hospital because to her, wrong diagnoses are given at the hospital. “My uncle had a problem with his leg and died a few days after admission at the regional hospital. They did a Covid-19 on the corpse and four days later, they told us he had the disease. So when I felt sick, my father sent me to consult at the regional hospital but I went to a clinic because I was scared the same thing could happen to me.”
Contrary to rumors within the community that there are particular doctors at the hospital, positioned to tag patients with the new virus, Dr Denis Nsame says the hospital has 42 doctors with some 26 staff redeployed to work at the Covid19 center.
« All the doctors are consultants, and they might have a patient in the ward who later show signs of the disease. The doctors will have to request for a Covid19 test. These doctors are at risk everyday and have nothing to gain from confirming someone is positive, » he added.
The scare and trauma is taking another angle as some families now prefer to keep their dead ones at the Akum mortuary and not the regional hospital because of the Covid-19 pandemic team’s strategy of testing corpses for Covid-19 so as to prevent the spread of the virus to persons.
According to Dr. Denis Nsame, a corpse is like a table and though it does not sneeze or cough, the secretions from the body is infectious so the corpse has to be treated with care.
“The scientific committee at the ministry of public health is really concerned about the trauma of loosing loved ones to Covid19 so they have made new directives on burials and design of coffins. We can now bury people within 48 hours and people will be allowed to view the corpse,” Dr. Denis added.
According to Rev Angwe Davidson, Regional hospital chaplain and member of the psychosocial support unit of the Covid-19 case management section, self perception has a great role to play in community engagement.
« There is self-stigma and social-stigma. Self-stigma is when a patient makes assumptions about him or herself. Thinking someone looking at you knows you are Covid19 positive or HIV positive and will spread rumour about you. Social stigma in this case, is the negative association between a person or group of people who share certain characteristics and a specific disease. Such treatment can negatively affect those with the disease, as well as their caregivers, family, friends and communities. These aspects play with our minds and drives fear ».
To Dr Rose Njini, general supervisor of the Bamenda Regional Hospital, Covid-19 isn’t a trigger-happy event. It is traumatizing and tortures everyone psychologically including the medical staff.
« We do receive psychologically support from our chaplaincy to cope with depression because being at a frontline of Covid-19 is nerve racking. So when someone is confirmed Covid-19 positive, we give them that same support using techniques that will enable that person cope or stay in isolation ».
Covid-19 Test Center
The Covid-19 technical platform has 5 departments with Dr Denis Nsame as the chief of the diagnosis and case management section. Dr Mercy Fundoh as the chief of the case management unit. Mr Yuyun Timothy is the head of the laboratory unit. Mr Njiyap Francois stands as the head of the psychosocial support unit and Mr Ntoungwen Achilles is the head of the post mortem unit.
The tuberculosis center now plays host to the Covid19 laboratory set up on 19 April 2020 by a team from Centre Pasteur . The well equipped laboratory also receives samples from the West Region for confirmation.
The Covid19 solidarity ward which holds 6 beds and a 10 bed capacity modern tent donated by Doctors without Borders, is located outside the premises of the hospital so as to better contain the virus.
All health districts in the North West Region are now in possession of the rapid diagnostic test for Covid-19, following the supply by the minister of Public Health.
According to Dr. Denis Nsame, the Covid19 treatment will be decentralized. « All health districts will soon have treatment centers. The big hospitals like Bingo and Shisong are already treating patients. »
By Maikem Emmanuela