NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Hospitals and emergency responders across the Mid-State still have to work around a nationwide IV bag shortage caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico months ago.
The shortage of IV solution used to deliver medications and fluids faster throughout the body prompted new training and procedural changes amid a rampant and deadly flu season sweeping the country.
The hurricane affected power to manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico. Baxter International Inc. is one of the largest providers and has slowly been getting back to its full production.
Representatives with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, St. Thomas Health, and TriStar Health all confirmed to NewsChannel 5 they have felt the impact of the IV bag shortage.
"We are working with the American Hospital Association, which represents the hospital industry, on ways to navigate this national shortage, and the AHA has been in active communication with the FDA. In the meantime, our scale allows us to share our inventory efficiently within our system and move product to where it is needed most as we manage through this national shortage. We also are using alternative strategies, including encouraging physicians to administer via syringe when appropriate," HCA Healthcare Spokesperson Anna-Lee Cockrill said in a statement.
Hurricane Maria disrupted Baxter's services, one of the largest manufacturers of IV solutions. Hospitals including St. Thomas and VUMC in Nashville are still affected and forced to change its protocols. @nc5 pic.twitter.com/OsHskQcN5Z— Matthew Torres (@NC5_MTorres) January 19, 2018
Rutherford County EMS Deputy Director Randy White told NewsChannel 5 that his emergency responders have been experiencing IV bag shortages prior to the hurricane.
There's been a backlog for the last two years, but the storm in September has only exacerbated the problem.
"Right now we have 40 cases on backorder, and if we order those 40 cases, we may only get 10," said White. "We're concerned, but we've been concerned for a long time about this."
The growing county takes an average of 100 calls a day. Just like hospital staff across the nation, paramedics are having to administer medicine manually instead of using IV bags.
"We would push those through an intermittent line rather through a drug line from an IV bag. Gun shots, knife stabbings, those types of things all get that bag of IV fluid and could mean the difference between elevating their blood pressure and keeping their brain alive or not," added White.
White has also been concerned because there's been a backlog of life-saving drugs like epinephrine, also.
"IVs don't usually save people, but they help us to save people. The paramedic is the one who is going to save that person, but when you take that tool out of the tool box, it makes it a lot harder," said White.
The department has worked with state emergency officials to investigate the reasons behind the backlog and potential solutions.
White said they can handle the problem for now with the help of area hospitals.