Sick and dying refused treatment as cash crisis cripples health system

HARARE - Zimbabwe's worsening economic crisis has seen the country's sick, injured and dying being refused critical treatment in hospital - as patients are expected to pay tens of millions Zimbabwe dollars as down payments for medical care and for drugs.


The country’s health system has deteriorated to drastic levels as a result of the combined crises crippling the once prosperous country. The economic collapse has seen a flood of highly skilled doctors and nurses fleeing abroad, while even the most basic medical supplies are out of financial reach for hospitals and clinics. The situation has recently meant patients are forced to buy their own drugs and medical supplies in order to receive even the most basic treatment.


At the same time, the country’s economy has spiralled out of control, to the point where shops are now refusing to accept local currency after the Zimbabwe dollar depreciated at its fastest rate ever over the weekend.


Hospital patients are now required to fork out a Z$20 million down payment for care, on top of buying drugs from private pharmacies – in a country where the daily cash withdrawal limit is Z$50,000 a day. In what is clearly the strangest form of genocide ever to face a country, a weekend report by the UK’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper say patients are being left to die inside Harare’s Parirenyatwa Hospital, because their families are unable to draw out the funds needed to secure critical treatment from the hospital staff.


The report quoted a grieving husband whose wife was diagnosed with a kidney ailment – the treatment for which the man said he could easily afford. But, on top of the down payment, he was told to buy the drugs needed to save his wife’s life at a cost of Z$30 million. He was forced to get special clearance from the Reserve Bank to exceed to the daily limit of Z$50,000, but by the time he got clearance hyperinflation had seen the cost of medicine almost double, and his wife was beyond saving.


She was not a candidate for death, I have my money in the bank, but they have been cruel enough to deny my access to that money, the devastated man told the Sunday Telegraph.


At the same time, a nurse at the hospital spoke about the death of a thre- month-old girl in the hospital’s waiting room. When she arrived her life could have been saved but her parents had exhausted all their savings on the bus fare, the nurse explained. She died while everyone watched right here in the waiting room because she could not be attended to without the required down-payment.


Tiseke Kasambala from Human Rights Watch called the situation tragic, saying Robert Mugabe’s government needed to be taken to task for the suffering being endured by the people. We are seeing an unwillingness by the government to end the crisis and the suffering being experience, Kasambala said. We are therefore calling on the government to immediately end all restrictions on aid and for the international community to respond in force to the desperate humanitarian crisis. – SW Radio Africa

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