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HARARE - Zimbabwe's biggest state hospital has stopped surgical operations because of a breakdown of equipment and shortages of drugs, a rights group said yesterday.
"There is a critical shortage of items ranging from anaesthetics to surgical equipment at Parirenyatwa Hospital," Douglas Gwatidzo, the chairman of Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights said.
"Surgeons can carry out operations but say they cannot risk their profession and increase the risk on the lives of the patient," he said.
"They are not prepared to be blamed for an operation which goes wrong because it was done without the necessary equipment, and operating on a patient when there are no painkillers to relieve their pain amounts to subjecting them to torture."
The state-owned Herald newspaper said Parirenyatwa Hospital was referring patients requiring emergency operations to Harare Central Hospital, which is battling with its own shortages.
Those who can afford it are referred to expensive private hospitals.
Deputy health minister Edwin Muguti blamed the shortages on Western-imposed targeted sanctions.
"Government is aware of the serious anaesthetic drugs shortages that have hit our central hospitals," Muguti was quoted by the Sunday Mail as saying.
"These are results of Western-imposed sanctions. We can't promise when the situation will return to normal but we want to assure the nation that we are treating this as an urgent matter."
Muguti said the last stocks of the widely-used ketamine and propofol drugs had been donated and had since run out.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of an economic crisis with annual inflation officially at over 100000 percent. There is also a chronic shortage of basic goods. - Sapa-AFP