Critical Painkiller Shortage Hit Harare Hospital Suspend Surgeries

Harare Central Hospital has, with immediate effect, temporarily suspended surgeries due to a critical shortage of painkillers. harare-central-hospital-ward

An internal memo from the surgery department indicates that only emergency operations – life-threatening and maternity – are being done.harare-suspends-surgeries-583x330

The memo, dated September 16, reveals that the hospital is experiencing a critical shortage of painkillers, namely pethidine, injectable morphine, fentanyl, adrenaline, metochlopramide, sodium bicarbonate and some antibiotics, making it difficult to manage patients in pain and avoid infections after surgery.

“It was decided after consultations 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, emergencies and intensive care unit,” reads part of the memo.

The surgery department said the suspension would be reviewed this week as the hospital makes efforts to restock.

The hospital said the suspension period would also be used to train nurses on administering painkillers – morphine and tramadol – that would be used going forward.

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“These (morphine and tramadol) are going to be the backbone of post-operative pain management henceforth,” reads the memo.

Harare Central Hospital clinical director Mr George Vera said the suspension was precipitated by limited funding to procure drugs, among other hospital neces- sities.

He said the hospital was not getting necessary funding from the National Budget and was relying mainly on user fees.

“As you know, our hospital caters for the poor of the poorest, three quarters of whom cannot afford to pay the user fees,” said Mr Vera.

Mr Vera said the hospital managed to procure some supplies of painkillers and antibiotics last Friday but that those would be reserved for emergencies only.

He urged other health institutions across the country to first contact the institution before referring patients for surgery. Harare Central Hospital is the oldest and one of the biggest referral health institutions in the country.-hERALD