Hospitals make adjustments as IV fluid supplies run short

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, it sparked a shortage of IV fluid solutions.

Stormont Vail Pharmacy Manager Glenn Baker, Pharm.D., said they've been able to meet all patient needs, but it has gotten tricky at times.

"We had gotten to the point where we couldn't get normal saline for a while - and that's one of the fluids they use when they administer blood, so we had to make some major changes," he said.

Plants in Puerto Rico supply more than 40 percent of the U.S. IV solution market. The facilities finally has power restored so the FDA believes the situation should improve in the coming weeks.

But this hard-hitting flu season also is increasing demand nationwide

In Topeka, between Christmas and New Years, Stormont Vail had 182 people test positive for influenza. The first week of 2018, it jumped to 228. Those same weeks, Saint Francis saw its cases spike from 29 to 48.

Those numbers do not account for all the other viruses making the rounds this time of year.

Until the supply levels off, Baker says they will continue to make adjustments.

"Every week, we're having to look at our supply. We're having to look at what we might change to mix in a different fluid or a different size," he said.

Baker says they're communicating with staff to make the most efficient use of supply; getting pre-mixed meds when possible, and administering with a syringe if they can; and transitioning patients to oral medication when they're able.

"We've stayed ahead of the situation," Baker said. "We haven't had to cancel any treatments or anything like that. Some hospitals have actually had to do that. They've looked at canceling surgeries and things like that. At Stormont Vail, we haven't had to do that."