Women at risk as key drug runs out

HARARE - In the latest crisis to hit the country’s dying health sector, which is reeling from poor funding, major hospitals have run of out of critical painkillers which are used in surgical operations on women in labour.

The dire shortages of pethidine come after many of Zimbabwe’s major hospitals, including Harare Central, recently suspended all non-emergency surgeries indefinitely, citing a critical shortage of drugs — and laying bare how much things have fallen apart in the country.

United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) on Friday became the latest major health facility in the country to announce that it was suspending surgical operations due to the shortages of drugs, including the critical painkiller pethidine.

“Please be advised that the hospitals are facing challenges in obtaining pethidine. This is a shortage in the country not just at United Bulawayo Hospitals. As such, all elective cases are suspended with effect from October 14, 2016 until further notice,” reads a letter that was written by UBH clinical director to the hospital’s chief executive officer.

Pethidine is especially used as a painkiller for women in labour and during caesarean sections.

A vocal pressure group specialising in women’s rights, WomenForWomen, said the suspension of surgical operations due to the unavailability of pethidine was as good as killing pregnant women.

“If you are a woman of child-bearing age, please note that the government has put you on death row,” wrote WomenForWomen co-ordinator Maureen Kademaunga on her Facebook Wall.

“Last month, it was announced that there’s a shortage of antibiotics in public hospitals. This week, a second announcement was made that there’s a shortage of pethidine.

“For too many women, pregnancy is a period associated with suffering, humiliations, ill-health and even death. The least our government can do is to provide good quality healthcare and dignified support to help women through this intense experience of childbearing.

“But clearly our government has failed to meet that obligation and this failure is an unfortunate manifestation of institutional and gender violence. Yes it is! Violence.

“And it all stems from the way our politics and culture routinely glorifies other types of men’s violence. And of course the misplaced spending priorities of our incompetent government. And of course the fact that they have no firsthand experience of our local healthcare system,” Kademaunga added.

When Harare Central Hospital put on hold all non–emergency procedures after it was hit by a severe shortage of drugs, including painkillers, analysts said the move highlighted the desperation of the situation in Zimbabwe’s public hospitals.

“Due to the critical shortages of pethidine, injectable morphine, fentanyl, adrenaline, metochlopramide, sodium bicarbonate and antibiotics, it was decided after consultation with the clinical director, heads of surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology and consultant anaesthetists that we suspend all elective surgeries for the time being.

“We will concentrate on maternity, CEPOD Emergencies and ICU. This is to allow the hospital to restock on these essential items,” said a memo circulated by one Dr H Chifamba at the time.

Health sector sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday the shortages were likely to worsen as the government was battling to secure money for the importation of the critical drugs.

Last month, Health and Child Care ministry permanent secretary, Gerald Gwinji, said apart from battling to secure money, it would take between four to six months to have all the hospitals stocked with the critical drugs.

Comments (4)

The irony of it all is that in the face of all this, the so called revolutionary icon will take large sums of money with him and travel to some useless oversees trip while the health sector is bleeding!!! As it has been announced that cabinet is sitting on Monday, it shows he is leaving maybe on Tuesday, if not Monday. Yet not even a single person in Zanu PF sees an anormally in this. What a shame!!!!

MR COOPER - 16 October 2016

Shame on you zanu pf

Young Zimbo - 17 October 2016

As usual, one set of rules for the rich and powerful and another set for the rest of us!

Gogo - 17 October 2016

I can supply this drug. We cannot let people die or suffer. As long as the resources to pay are available then contact me on +27 76 012 0935

Jefrey - 19 October 2016

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