CBM Doctors Express Worry about Effects of COVID-19

This photo shows two men, one wearing protective gear (face mask, hand gloves and a doctor's coat). He is offering hand sanitizer to the second man, at the gates of the clinic.

COVID19 preparedness - All patients, staff and visitors at CBM's partner MICEI Eye Clinic are subjected to temperature checks and offered hand sanitizers to clean their hands before proceeding into the premises.

"How will it affect the poorest of the poor?" Doctors and nurses in Cameroon and Rwanda have many concerns on their mind: how do we cope with the daily routine of the hospital during the Corona pandemic? How do we protect patients – and ourselves? And what does the crisis mean for the particularly poor?

No mobile eye clinics = no access to poor and marginalised communities

At the MICEI eye clinic in Yaoundé in Cameroon, life is suddenly very different than it was just a few weeks ago. The virus has put an end to a lot of activities in this Central African country: mobile eye operations, which mainly reach poor patients in the countryside, are no longer taking place. In the clinic itself, only 30 percent of the employees are continuing to work right now.

Director of MICEI clinic and Ophthalmologist Dr Henry Nkumbe says: "We are following the 13-point strategy adopted by the Prime Minister to combat Covid-19 in Cameroon." This includes treating only emergency patients and a few outpatients who come to pick up medication or glasses. "This means that we have much less income! But only in this way can social distancing rules be observed."

But the head of the clinic is particularly concerned about poor patients, who are no longer accessible by field assignments: "The effects are devastating for our society. Especially for those Cameroonians who live from hand-to-mouth." This question particularly plagues Dr. Nkumbe:

"How will this pandemic affect the poorest of the poor? And what would happen to our already weak health system if we are unable stop the pandemic at an early stage?"

Battling drastically increased costs and shrunken revenues

More than a hundred patients a day used to be treated at the Kabgayi Eye Clinic in Rwanda. Now the numbers have decreased drastically – since the virus has paralysed public transport, hardly forty patients visit the clinic each day. And those are the few lucky ones – they arrive with a referral, and are able to afford private transport to the clinic.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Theophile Tuyisabe and his staff must work under extremely stressful conditions. "First, we must ensure that state regulations are adhered to – social distancing, wearing protective masks, hand hygiene and so on. Secondly, in the eye clinic we check the temperature of everyone who comes to the clinic. Those who have signs of a flu are isolated and unnecessary gear is also being avoided."

We hope that we survive this crisis and that CBM supporters will not stop helping our eye clinic!
Dr. Tuyisabe Theophile, Ophthalmologist
This photo shows a man washing his hands at a newly constructed (outdoor) hand washing station.

To encourage patients to follow good hygiene practices, hand washing stations have been set up in the shortest possible time at Kabgayi Hospital.

© Kabgayi Hospital

In addition to these tightened working conditions, the clinic faces the challenge of procuring personal protective equipment (PPE). Dr. Tuyisabe says: "This is unplanned. And it's not easy to get (PPE) on the market. We probably need a lot of PPE, because the number of cases is increasing." There is also a lack of essential equipment: "I wish we had slit lamps and eye microscopes with a shielding device..."

Dr. Tuyisabe is relying on the help of loyal CBM donors, so that critical eye patients whose eyesight is in danger can continue receiving treatment.

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