Hurricane Damage In Puerto Rico Affecting Health Care Industry

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Health care providers nationwide are concerned about a shortage of IV bag solution. One of the major manufacturers of the saline solution, Baxter, is located in Puerto Rico where Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc more than one month ago. The company suffered minimal damage, but did lose multiple production days, disrupting their shipments. That includes shipments that would be heading here to Sioux Falls.

“I don’t recall any shortage of this magnitude in my career,” says Pharmacy Clinical Manager with Sanford Health Tyler Turek.

For the past three weeks, the pharmacy has seen a decrease in the amount of IV fluids available.

“The IV solutions that are on a shortage range anywhere from normal saline, dextrose, lactated ringer’s,” explains Turek.

Turek says the solution is needed for critical trauma, surgical and chemo patients; as well as to re-hydrate patients with the flu or another sickness.

“It’d be every single patient virtually that crosses the threshold at Sanford is affected by the shortages,” says Turek.

So in order to counter the decline in fluids, Sanford Health is getting creative. They’re buying the solution from different, more generic manufacturers other than Baxter, as well as buying different versions of the solution.

“We have to manipulate different products and different presentations in order for us to be able to supply medications in a normal fashion,” says Turek.

Turek says this has made the solution less efficient, but it’s helped them avoid limiting the amount of IV fluids they can give to their patients.

“We’ve been able to continue business as usual to provide care as we ordinarily would,” he says.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is assisting Baxter in importing these medical products from the firm’s facilities in Ireland and Australia instead of Puerto Rico. Turek says week by week, the shortage situation is getting better.

“We’re starting to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, so continuing to be as creative as we can be with that redesign,” says Turek.

Turek says purchasing the IV solution has also gotten more expensive due to the shortage. They’re paying about 5 times more than what they were paying before the storm.

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