Lawton hospitals dealing with IV bag shortage

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A shortage of IV bags is now affecting Lawton hospitals and it's all a result of Hurricane Maria and damage it caused in Puerto Rico.

Nearly 90-percent of the IV bags used here in the states come from four manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico. All four plants, as well as the homes of many employees, were destroyed when Hurricane Maria made its way through Puerto Rico last September.

Director of Pharmacy for CCMH Cheryl Hale said initially, they didn't know how big of an impact there would be.

"Nobody really realized until it started the trickle-down effect where we were noticing we couldn't get our IV solutions," Hale said. "Visiant is one of our GPO groups, they reached out to us and let us know that we might start accumulating. We don't know how bad this is going to be, we don't know how long it's going to take everything to get back online. And it turns out everything is still not back online."

Hale said the shortage is directly affecting the staff at hospitals here locally.

"It has a major impact on how we operate. Every day we go through 20 or 30 cases of saline," Hale said. "When you're allocated eight then you have to decide where you're going to make up that shortfall. So, you order things like a 500ml bag instead of a liter bag and it increases the workload on nurses, it increases the workload on pharmacy."

Hale said while this is affecting the staff, they're not allowing it to affect patients.

"There's been no disruption in care," Hale said. "There's been no shortages that would relate to a problem in patient satisfaction or patient care."

But the problem has intensified in recent weeks.

"Flu season makes it even worse because you need more saline," Hale said. "What our hospital is doing is when we can get more of one solution we start using more of like lactated ringers versus saline. We've looked out to other vendors but we don't like to buy off of the grey market because it can go from 3 to 5 dollars a bag to 85 dollars a bag."

Hale said she's optimistic the shortage at CCMH will soon come to an end.

"I'm working with another company trying to get our normal saline line from them and I just heard on Friday that we are going to be on their list of facilities that they will allow to come on contract that's very good news for our facility because we will not have the problem when we get signed up with them," Hale said.

In the meantime, Hale said they are prioritizing the saline bags they have for the surgical department and emergency services, like in ambulances. But again, she emphasized the shortage of IV bags has had absolutely no impact on patient care.

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