AUSTIN, Texas - “We put antibiotics in it, pain medications; any number of medications is put in these bags and allows the nurses to drip those in slowly. And that's where the problem lies, the nurses aren't able to do that right now,” said Dr. David Fleeger a colon and rectal surgeon who also serves on the Texas Medical Association’s Board of Trustees.
Finding out the main manufacturer of small saline bags has a dwindling supply, has hospital staff looking to alternatives.
“This is sort of like telling a restaurant that we're out of forks,” Fleeger said.
Medical staff in Austin has been able to divert to other more available fluids to administer medications for now. They can also give medications using what is called an I.V. push.
“The nurse basically has the medication in a syringe and gives it to the patient through their I.V. The problem with that is it takes 15-20 minutes for them to do that, instead of a nurse being able to take three or four or five minutes to hang medication and then be able to walk around and do other things for the patient,” said Fleeger.
St. David’s HealthCare and Dell Seton both said they are making necessary adjustments to conserve I.V. fluids.
In a statement to FOX 7, Dr. Shewan Aziz, lead pharmacist at Ascension Texas writes:
“We are experiencing a nationwide shortage affecting the supply of intravenous (IV) solutions as a result of Hurricane Maria’s effects on drug manufacturing companies in Puerto Rico. This shortage may continue for several months.
We have implemented several ways to conserve fluids which still allow safe and consistent drug provision and minimize effects on our operations. We have not had any interruptions in patient care. However if the shortage continues, it may affect the scheduling of certain services, such as elective procedures.”
Dr. Ken Mitchell, chief medical officer at St. David’s HealthCare sent FOX 7 this statement:
“While we have had to make some adjustments, the shortage has not affected patient care at and St. David’s HealthCare facilities.
Our supply chain center is in constant contact with the manufacturers of IV fluid to determine estimated delivery dates and quantities of the product, and this allows our clinical pharmacists, working closely with our physicians and nurses, to adjust, conserve and find alternatives, when needed.”
And Baylor Scott & White Health said:
“We are aware of the shortage. We will continue to monitor the situation and will work closely with our vendors and distributors in accordance with our processes and protocols.”
Dr. Fleeger hopes the shortage of I.V. fluids will be a teaching moment for the FDA so this doesn't happen again.
“Best case scenario would be to have the government working with the manufacturers and distributers to try and find a way to make sure we have several sources of these different products that we're having short supply of,” said Fleeger.
The FDA is working to approve sales from two additional companies that produce saline bags, but that process will likely take a couple of months.