It’s a sign of just how bad things have got for Zimbabweans: one of the capital’s two main hospitals has run out of drugs and can no longer perform scheduled operations.
A leaked internal memo signed by an anaesthetist from Harare Central Hospital says that the decision has been taken “due to a critical shortage of drugs” including antibiotics, sodium bicarbonate and commonly-used pain relievers like morphine.
Doctors will now concentrate exclusively on maternity cases, intensive care and emergency theatre, says the document which was written on Friday.
The news has caused outrage among Zimbabwe’s many critics of President Robert Mugabe, who regularly travels for medical care to Singapore. His only daughter Bona gave birth to her first child outside the country earlier this year.
The privately-owned Newsday said the lives of thousands of patients were now at risk.
In an editorial, the paper said: “While the government will be quick to blame the current economic situation on so-called sanctions, for many this is a clear case of misplaced priorities by the government and failure by Mugabe’s administration.”
Cost of surgery
Echoing the tone of many comments on social media, one Twitter user said: “That’s why Mugabe family go to Singapore/Malaysia for treatment, they can’t stand these shortages they [themselves] cause.”
There are private clinics in Harare where operations can still be performed: Zimbabwe activist Sylvanos Mudzvova was due to go for surgery in one such clinic on Monday following his alleged torture last week, he confirmed on Facebook.
But the cost of surgery at these clinics is well out of the reach of many in cash-strapped Zimbabwe. A caesarean section at an upmarket clinic in central Harare can cost at least 2 000 US, locals say. Some mission-run hospitals in the rural areas are also better-stocked with drugs.
Three years after Mugabe, now 92, was re-elected to power, Zimbabwe is fast slipping back into economic and political crisis. At the height of the 2000-8 crisis, some hospitals and pharmacies could not provide even basic painkillers and in rural clinics, women gave birth by candlelight.
A cholera epidemic in late 2008 left 4 000 dead.
Zimbabwe’s health minister David Parirenyatwa has not tweeted since last year. To her credit, his daughter, media personality Ruvenheko Parirenyatwa responded to a Twitter request Sunday for confirmation of the dire state of affairs at Harare Central Hospital with this: “Comrade, I’m his child, but not his spokesperson so how about we ask him here? cc @DrDParirenyatwa please advise.”
The minister has not yet replied.