One of Zimbabwe’s largest and oldest hospitals in the capital of Harare has temporarily stopped performing elective surgeries because of a critical shortage of medical supplies.
In the latest crisis to hit the cash-strapped African nation, medical staff at the Harare Central hospital have scaled back services. For the time being, they will only treat life-threatening and maternity cases, Al Jazeera revealed.
The hospital is running low on pain medication like pethidine and injectable morphine.
Zimbabwe has been undergoing an economic crisis for nearly two decades, and the public health sector, which receives only three percent of the government budget, is struggling.
“The economic situation is not good at the moment, starting from what we get from treasury,” Peggy Zvavamwe, hospital CEO, told Al Jazeera.
“We cater for that part of the population who rarely can pay for their own medication,” she said.
“You find our funds are dwindling, we try to stretch it as far as possible.”
The country’s middle class and wealthy use the more expensive private hospitals, while President Robert Mugabe and his family go abroad for medical treatment.
But the poor, who are in majority, say they have no choice but to use the neglected public health facilities.
“I think the service is poor,” one patient said. “I was assaulted last week and they removed my tooth, but I have not been given medication.”
Some political analysts say if the economy does not improve quickly, things could get even worse in public health facilities across the country.
But hospital officials at Harare insist the latest crisis is temporary and normal service will resume soon in the surgical wards.