Drug shortage hits UBH…Pethidine in short supply…Hospital suspends elective surgery


Whinsley Masara, Chronicle Reporter
THE United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) has suspended elective surgery due to a countrywide shortage of pethidine, a potent painkiller used during and after an operation.

The hospital has with immediate effect, started attending to emergency surgical procedures only.

Elective surgery is when a patient chooses to be operated on in a matter that is not life threatening to avoid pain or possible complications in future.

In a circular signed by UBH Clinical Director Dr Narcisius Dzvanga, the institution said it was facing challenges in obtaining Pethidine.

“Please be advised that the hospitals are facing challenges in obtaining pethidine. This is a shortage in the country and not just at United Bulawayo Hospitals. As such, all elective surgical operations are suspended with effect from October 14 until further notice,” read the statement.

UBH Chief Executive Officer Ms Nonhlanhla Ndlovu said operations at the institution had been virtually paralysed.

“This cripples our performance, making it very difficult to do procedures in theatre because after performing any surgical operation, a patient requires a supply of the drug to decrease pain.

“On that note, operations on elective cases were suspended with effect from yesterday until further notice.

“The little supplies we remain with will only be reserved for emergency cases. Where there is room for choice, only those patients on emergency will be operated on,” she said.

UBH is one of the country’s largest referral public hospitals and together with Mpilo Central Hospital, caters for people in the country’s southern region.

The southern region comprises Bulawayo, Midlands, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South provinces.

Last month, Harare Central Hospital (HCC) suspended all surgical operations due to an acute drug shortage.

The situation was said to be so dire that only a few critical departments such as maternity, CEPOD emergencies and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) remained operational while the rest of the patients had to consult private hospitals.

According to a memorandum from the anaesthetics departmental head, a Dr HN Chifamba, dated September 16, 2016, HCC had run dry of the critical drugs required for elective surgeries among them morphine, pethidine, antibiotics as well as the widely available bicarbonate soda.

The letter was addressed to all the hospital’s consultants and copied to the clinical director, the chief executive officer, principal nursing officer, theatre matron and board chairperson a Dr Ndowa.

“Due to the critical shortages of pethidine, injectable morphine, fentanyl, adrenaline, sizes 3.0, 3.5, 4.5, 6.5, 7.0, 7.5 ETT, metoclopramide, sodium bicarbonate and antibiotics, it was decided after consultation with the Clinical Director, Heads of Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Consultant Anaesthetics that we suspend all elective surgeries for the time being,” Dr Chifamba wrote. — @winnie_masara

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