Background: Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care services are essential to improving the lives of women and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Catholic Church is one the biggest non-governmental suppliers of health care in sub-Saharan Africa, including Cameroon but their role in providing SRH care is restricted by religious norms and values. This study explored doctors’ experiences and perceptions of providing SRH care at Catholic hospitals in a conflict affected area in Cameroon.
Methods: A qualitative study was conducted using ten semi-structured interviews with general practitioners from three Catholic hospitals in North-West region in Cameroon. Qualitative coding was done with assistance from Nvivo 12.0, data was analyzed using thematic analysis.
Results: The findings are presented in three main themes. Respondents describe (1) strict rules and a broad range of challenges to providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services. Nonetheless there is evidence of (2) doctors overcoming obstacles to providing sexual and reproductive healthcare through referrals, provision of care in secrecy and occasional negotiating with the hospital administration. Despite overcoming challenges, participants describe numerous examples of (3) poor sexual and reproductive health care and poor health outcomes, including avoidable deaths.
Conclusion: This study shows that understanding the intersect between religion and women’s health remains important, particularly in improving access to sexual and reproductive health to vulnerable populations in conflict affected areas. It further provides insight into doctors’ motivations to practicing medicine and how doctors cope and make efforts to provide care and minimize harm