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The outbreak of COVID-19 has imposed many challenges on health systems. The purpose of this study was to describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the clinical activity of pediatricians.
We conducted a cross-sectional and descriptive online survey among pediatricians practicing in Cameroon. Data were collected through an anonymous pre-tested Google Form®.
Among the 118 pediatricians eligible for the survey, 101 responded (85.6%), of whom 61.2% were women. The pediatric outpatient consultations dropped significantly from 60.4% of pediatricians seeing more than 30 patients per week before the pandemic to 9.9% during the pandemic (P<0.000). According to the occupancy rate of hospitalisation beds, 45.5% of pediatricians reported having 76–100% of pediatric hospitalisation beds occupied per week before the pandemic but no pediatrician reported a similar rate during the pandemic (P<0.000). There was a significant increase in the use of telehealth, ranging from no pediatrician using telehealth “very frequently” before the pandemic to 23.8% using it during the pandemic (P<0.000). Most of the pediatricians had at their disposal surgical masks (96%), care gloves (80.2%), hydroalcoholic gel (99.0%), and soap and water (86.1%). For the management of children, 90.1% and 71.3% of pediatricians experienced difficulties accessing COVID-19 PCR and chloroquine, respectively, and 74.3% declared difficulties for proper isolation of patients. More than half (65.3%) of the pediatricians interviewed were “very afraid” or “extremely afraid” of being infected with SARS-Cov-2, respectively 45.5% and 19.8%. The most frequent reasons included fear of infecting their relatives (85.1%) and of developing a severe form of the disease (43.6%). The reluctance to consult health services expressed by the parents was due to: fear of being infected when leaving their home and especially in the health facility (96%), strict compliance with confinement (30.7%), and financial difficulties of families (13.9%).
This work highlights the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the clinical activity of Cameroonian pediatricians. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a significant drop in the use of health facilities, which probably has a negative impact on children's overall level of health. Although the preventive measures explain this drop in attendance at health facilities, the parents’ fear of being infected when leaving the house was the predominant reason likely to explain this drop in attendance at health facilities. This could constitute an axis for developing messages to parents to encourage a gradual return to child health services.Le texte complet de cet article est disponible en PDF.
Keywords : COVID-19, Pediatricians, Pediatric outpatient, Cameroon