Hurricane Maria puts IV bag production on hold in Puerto Rico, causing shortage across US

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The effects of Hurricane Maria are still impacting thousands in Puerto Rico and have caused a chain reaction to hospitals in the United States.

“About 50 percent of the patients that we treat receive some sort of IV saline product,” Edie Gigot, Vice President of Clinical Operations for ARJ Infusion Services, said.

With so many patients who rely on daily treatments at ARJ, the impact of the IV shortage is far-reaching.

“There`s not a whole lot you can do because ultimately we don`t know how long the shortage is going last for," Gigot said. "That`s why we do the things that we do such as work closely with our physicians and community partners to ensure there`s no interruption for the patient."

Gigot said pharmacists and doctors across the country are feeling the effects of the manufacturing shutdown of hospital IVs caused by Hurricane Maria. A large portion of the IVs are manufactured in Puerto Rico and many of the factories have not yet reopened.

It’s a situation that caretakers are doing their best to work around to ensure patients are receiving the treatment they need.

“We can work to buy larger volume bags and transfer them to smaller volume bags, which does increase man hours for us but still ensures our patients receive the medication that they need,” Gigot said.

It is also affecting local blood banks.

“Right now we`ve been able to manage our inventory, but if it continues to go on, it`ll certainly be a concern as we head into the holiday period,” Executive Director of the Community Blood Center David Graham said.

Graham said 20 percent of collections are done with a special kit and they’ve already had to limit its use.

“This device allows us to collect and process at the same time. We’re returning the unused components of your blood. The platelets, the plasma, and we’re just getting two transfusable [sic] units of red cells from one donation. What it`s forced us to do is to ration what we have to only the most needed blood types, which are O negative and B negative, and it`s impacted us in the month of October by about 800 units,” he said.

It’s a situation that offices have overcome in the past but one they know is out of their control.

“We`re at the mercy of our distributors and the manufacturers, so when there`s a shortage such as that, it really depends on how much supply really exists outside of where its been manufactured,” Gigot said.