Local hospitals face IV shortage as emergency rooms overflow with flu patients

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Hospitals across the United States are facing a dangerous shortage of IV fluid bags. Officials say Hurricane Maria is to blame.

“Most patients are on IV fluid for hydration purposes,” said Franciscan Health Administrative Pharmacy Director Ronda Freije.

If you look around pretty much any hospital, you will see an IV.

“You walk into most rooms and you are going to see something hanging on the patient,” said Freije.

Recently, IV fluid bags became harder to come by.

“There are concerns nationwide that facilities will not be able to keep up with the supply issues,” said Freije.

Officials say the major shortage of IV fluid bags comes after Hurricane Maria wiped out power at major medical supply distributors in Puerto Rico. Those suppliers sell saline bags to hospitals like Franciscan Health in central Indiana.

“These IV bags out here were made at a plant in Puerto Rico,” said Franciscan Pharmacy Operations Manager Rachel Calvert.

Nurses, doctors and pharmacists had to find alternatives.

“With our shortage, problem IV bags were hard to get. So, we had to use IV pushes with a syringe,” said Calvert.

Those methods can cut down on valuable time to check in on other patients.

“When you are doing a push IV, the nurse has to stand there at the patient’s bedside for 15 to 30 minutes. That has a huge impact on our nursing care,” said Calvert.

Franciscan Health says it’s IV fluid bag supply will not run out anytime soon, but they are running low on other options. Franciscan also says other hospitals and smaller care facilities are calling them for help.

“It has never happened to this extent where it has impacted the patient care that we provide. We have had to change our processes,” said Freije.

Officials expect the shortage of IV fluid bags to last for two to three months. Right now, the FDA says they are working to approve new IV systems and products to meet the high demand.

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