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Springfield, Urbana hospitals scramble to cope with IV bag shortage

Health-care providers in Clark and Champaign counties are among numerous hospitals nationally struggling with a shortage of IV bags used to administer drugs and other fluids to patients.

Information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicates health-care organizations have been dealing with a shortage of intravenous fluids and bags that are critical to patient care since at least 2014.

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But it has become more serious after Hurricane Maria damaged production facilities in Puerto Rico, and is also occurring at a time when flu activity is widespread across most of the U.S., according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The IV fluid bag shortages are the result of several factors, according to information from the FDA. That includes consolidation in the pharmaceutical market and production issues at some manufacturing facilities due to quality issues. More recently, shortages have faced additional pressure as a result of Hurricane Maria’s manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico, according to the FDA.

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Mercy Health, which provides health-care services in both Clark and Champaign Counties, has seen shortages but its hospitals and other centers are using a variety of methods to address the issue, spokeswoman Nanette Bentley said. The shortage is affecting all of Mercy’s facilities statewide, including the Springfield region.

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“Patient care is always our top priority and a multidisciplinary team comprised of supply chain, pharmacy, nursing, operations, nutrition and others, has been addressing the issue for weeks,” Bentley said. “This team meets regularly to ensure patient care is not impacted by the bag shortages and to determine alternate delivery methods for the drugs and fluids patients need during the course of their care.”

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Mercy medical staff are working around the problem to ensure patients receive the proper care, she said.

“Depending on the drug, we can, for example, administer it orally or via intravenous push administered by a nurse versus an IV bag,” Bentley said. “In other cases, we can use larger bags that remain widely available or administer needed medications that come prepacked in frozen bags. While there is a shortage of the bags, the different delivery methods available to us ensure that all the patients in our care are receiving the care they need when they need it.”

Healthcare providers statewide are also being creative in dealing with the fluid shortage, Ohio Hospital Association spokesman John Palmer said.

“They’re definitely exploring other options as much as possible, waiting until additional supplies can be procured,” Palmer said. “At this point, hospitals are able to determine whether they are able to carry through with anything scheduled or anything that might come up for an emergency standpoint.”

Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital in Springfield couldn’t be reached for comment on if it has seen shortages.

The Ohio Hospital Association isn’t aware of any providers across Ohio who have completely exhausted their ability to treat patients due to the shortage, Palmer said.

“The CDC and FDA were indicating they are working with the manufacturers to try to get additional supplies to help,” he said. “The flu season has spiked a lot, too, which has created even more demand on top of some of these other national events that have occurred.”

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The hospital association is working with state officials and other health-care organizations to react to any emergencies that might arise.

“We have an emergency preparedness initiative that if there is a hospital or a need that is occurring, we are able to quickly tap into a network of other hospitals and health-care facilities that might have those resources to make sure things are addressed and shared,” he said.

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