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Zimbabwe hospital suspends surgery as drugs run out

Harare – A major state hospital in Zimbabwe has suspended routine surgery after running out of painkillers, local media reported on Monday, underlining the country’s worsening economic crisis.

President Robert Mugabe’s government faces a cash shortage that has fuelled recent street protests and forced the treasury to print its own US dollar “bond notes” from next month.

Harare Central Hospital, the country’s second biggest, said it would focus only on emergencies, intensive care and maternity cases.

“Due to the critical shortage of pethidine, injectable morphine, adrenaline and antibiotics, it was decided that we suspend all elective surgeries,” privately-owned NewsDay quoted head of anaesthetics Harunavamwe Chifamba as saying in a memo.

“This is to allow the hospital to restock on these essential items.”

Anti-government protests

The state-run Herald newspaper quoted clinical director George Vera as saying the hospital was relying on payments made by patients as it was not receiving funds from the government.

“Our hospital caters for the poorest of the poor, three quarters of whom cannot afford to pay the user fees,” he said.

The government revealed recently that it spends almost 97% of its revenue on salaries.

Zimbabwe adopted the US dollar and South African rand in 2009 after inflation which peaked at 500 billion percent rendered the local dollar unusable.

But Zimbabwe has run short of US dollar notes, forcing banks to limit cash withdrawals. The government has also failed to pay its workers on time.

Mugabe, 92, has vowed to end the wave of anti-government protests that have shaken his regime this year.

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