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IV bag shortage deepens, local hospital supplies stretched thinner

12 January 2018

"We found a lot of creative ways to do these small volume infusions without IV bags", explained Cathi Cornelius, a Clinical Pharmacy Utilization Specialist at Munson Medical Center. "I see it as a crisis", says Pasko.

Some hospital officials say the severity of shortages stabilized over the holidays, when elective surgeries and other services drop, but others say shortages are worsening. "They actually put the medications in those little bags along with the regular saline or whatever they're using to help patients", St. Luke's assistant inventory manager Bill Whiting said.

One of the major manufacturers in Puerto Rico is back on the power grid and the FDA hopes this shortage will end within the next few weeks. Area hospitals - like many across the country - have been wrestling with this shortage for months. "We don't know, we know less, actually, the future of the products we're going to get in the pipeline, and just the overall understanding of what we're doing tends to be more on a short-term basis than it has been in the past", says Demers.

Several noted a cascade effect, with new shortages created as hospitals all try the same workarounds.

That being said, Johnson said that the challenge at this point isn't getting IV bags - it's the cost.

"With the shortage of some of these bags what we've had to do is do what the pharmacy would call compounding".

Munson Medical Center in Traverse City is also feeling the impact of the bag shortage. So they can actually get the solution - sterile water or saline solution - and mix those themselves for those patients.

Those methods can cut down on valuable time to check in on other patients.

"I have never seen anything quite this bad", said Sullivan, the group's head of research and innovation. "But we have not had to alter our practice whatsoever", said Heaton.

"We should learn something about patient care from this", he said.

IV bag shortage deepens, local hospital supplies stretched thinner