The short supply of drugs and equipments resulted in the stoppage of surgical operations in the biggest state hospital of Zimbabwe, according to a rights group.
"There is a critical shortage of items ranging from anaesthetics to surgical equipment at Parirenyatwa hospital," Douglas Gwatidzo, chairman of Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights told AFP.
"Surgeons can carry out operations but they are saying they cannot risk their profession and increase the risk on the lives of the patient.
"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 that patient 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 that we are always talking about. 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."
The deputy minister said the last stocks of the widely-used ketamine and propofol drugs were donated and have since run out.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of economic crisis with annual inflation officially at over 100,000 percent. There is a chronic shortage of basic goods and the majority of the population live below the poverty threshold.