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Hospitals work to overcome IV bag shortage

Hospitals work to overcome IV bag shortage

January 12th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Debbie Ousley, a nurse at Capital Region Medical Center, hangs an IV bag in a patient's room Wednesday. The recent devastation caused by Hurricane Maria affected Puerto Rico's medical manufacturing plants leading to shortages of IV bags.

Photo by Mark Wilson /News Tribune.

Questions have arisen about whether a short supply of some IV bags has affected area health providers.

The challenge stems from Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in September. That hurricane devastated the island's infrastructure, affecting its medical manufacturing plants. Among things the plants make are IV bags.

Lindsay Huhman, director of marketing at Capital Region Medical Center, said all hospitals and health care facilities are experiencing issues with their supply of certain IV bags.

"We have stayed ahead of the shortages by adjusting our processes for administering certain drugs, allocating certain products to specific need areas, and utilizing other products in place of what is short," she said.

Baxter International, whose production of bags was heavily damaged by the storm, has moved some production elsewhere in North America.

Baxter International also provides some bags for saline and sugar solutions for St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City, said Robert Ritchey, the hospital's regional director of pharmacy services.

The hospital contracted with other vendors to keep stocks of the bags throughout its four-state system, he said in an email.

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Hospitals typically use the small-volume IV bags (about 3 ounces) to mix and administer medications to patients.

CRMC has an ample supply of larger bags, typically used for administering fluids to dehydrated patients, Huhman said.

Dehydration is a concern for people suffering from the flu, health officials said, and the number of flu patients locally continues to build, Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell added.

Health officials have confirmed 552 cases of Influenza A and 66 cases of Influenza B in Cole County this year.

St. Mary's Hospital is able to provide fluids for flu patients using its stock of bags and in some cases by using oral hydration, Ritchey said.

The shortage of small-volume bags is the most difficult one CRMC is facing, Huhman said. However, when Baxter changed some manufacturing plants to address the lack of small-volume bags, it might have created shortages in other products in many parts of the United States, she added.

"Our materials management team is doing an outstanding job of managing back-orders lists and staying ahead of the problem to ensure our teams are equipped to take care of patients," she said. "At this time, we have been able to work around the shortages without compromising patient care."