Augusta Health finds solutions to IV bag shortage

Published: Jan. 12, 2018 at 5:45 PM EST
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When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, the storm took out IV saline solution manufacturers, leaving hospitals around the country


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."

Puerto Rico's power grid is being slowly restored and the last of three Baxter International factories there that make saline bags and nutrient solutions was reconnected just before Christmas. But intermittent power outages are still slowing Baxter's efforts to get back to full production.

Only a few other companies make those solutions, and supplies never fully recovered after a 2014 shortage of saline bags.

Now many hospitals are only getting half or two-thirds of what they order, and have only a few days' worth of saline on their shelves.

To get ahead of the shortage, Augusta Health has created a task force to monitor the usage and supply of the saline solution.

Kyle Startsman, a pharmacist at the hospital, said that by being on top of the issue, they have been able to keep their supply lasting.

"We've been approaching this as a unified front and bale to effect changes to preserve our fluid situation very diligently, and we've had to make zero compromises to providing high quality patient care to our community," said Startsman.

Saline solutions are frequently used to treat patients: most commonly to help administer drugs.

To preserve their supply of saline, Startsman said the hospital has been turning to alternative solutions to use in their IV's.

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.

"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. "We've been able to meet all of our fluid requirements."

Some hospitals across the country are now using injections instead of IV drips to deliver drugs, but that can lead to shortages of syringes.

While this shortage is a difficult situation to manage, Startsman said that it is nothing the hospital hasn't dealt with before.

"These drug shortages are nothing new to health care," said Startsman. "It is challenging. However, it's something that we're well equipped and very efficient at dealing with."

The FDA said in a statement that they expect the shortage to improve in the coming weeks, but until then Startsman said Augusta Health will continue to monitor the problem.