Hospitals across the United States are bracing for a potentially big problem: Stock piles of saline, a critical medical supply, are running low.
Saline solution is used in dialysis and surgery, to clean wounds, to inject medication from antibiotics to chemotherapy and to treat dehydration. Thousands of saline bags are used by medical professionals every day, and the problem is big enough that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration is taking notice.
A majority of saline used in the United States is produced in Puerto Rico. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria, plus a flu season in full swing, has created this perfect storm.
"The FDA has been working closely with federal and Puerto Rican authorities to help stabilize the medical products manufacturing sector," an FDA spokesman said in a news release. "We’re taking steps to mitigate or avert product shortages but we’ve still seen shortages of certain medically important products, some of which are sourced primarily or only in Puerto Rico."
In an alert released this month, the FDA addressed IV fluid shortages exacerbated by Hurricane Maria and offered advice for hospitals in managing the shortage.
Hospitals across North Texas have been meeting about the issue and have taken quick action to make sure patient care is not affected. According to a spokesperson, Parkland Memorial Hospital has adopted a number of strategies to stock, administer and review saline solutions.
Within days after the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, Medical City Health care personnel began to strategize solutions and track inventory. Hospital staff were directed to change the way saline is administered. The larger bags of saline are also used to conserve on the smaller bags.