Northern Michigan Hospitals Deal With IV Bag Shortage

Amy Johns

Hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico, along with tragedies like the mass shooting in Las Vegas and California's wildfires may be affecting healthcare in northeast Ohio.

Hospital officials, pharmacists and other staff have been devising alternatives and workarounds, training doctors and nurses on new procedures and options, and hitting the phones to try to secure fluids from secondary suppliers.

Startsman said even though they've seen an influx of patients due to flu season and other viruses going around, they have not run out of the saline solution just yet. However, the supply virtually disappeared last fall when a hurricane damaged the United States biggest supplier in Puerto Rico.

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"The medications that are delivered within a hospital setting are given through an intravenous route using IV fluids to provide that medication, so it is very important that we continue to evaluate what we have", Hoffman said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said last week it believes shortages will start to ease over the next few weeks, but stressed "the production situation in Puerto Rico remains fragile".

Baxter International Factories produces the saline bags and nutrient solutions, and also supplied IV bags to Conway Medical Center. Only a few companies make the solutions and IV bags, which makes it a nationwide problem.

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McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey has been working around a shortage of smaller IV bags for several months.

Fortunately, that's not the case at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London, according to chief medical officer Dr. Oliver Mayorga. "We're starting to put a lot of drugs in syringes instead that would normally be in a 50-100 ml bag", said Kevin Pendleton Director of Pharmacy Services at McLaren Northern Michigan.

"Certainly it's presented challenges; however, we are not at the point of giving patients Gatorade in the emergency department as some facilities are", said Startsman.

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Chang says people with flu symptoms shouldn't worry about lack of insurance or money, that it's much more important to be treated. The effectiveness of flu shots is not flawless , but for children who get the flu even when vaccinated , the effects are milder.

"Things will be a little bit different, but they should not see any change in their care", she said.

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