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January 12, 2018

Hospitals Short on Plastic IV Bags After Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico.  Many people were without food, water, and electricity.  The effects of the storm hurt hospitals in the United States, as many were left without plastic IV bags that are important to everyday operations.

Mini-bags of IV fluid are used to dilute and distribute medication to patients.  There are only a few manufacturers in the United States.  Baxter International has its factory in Puerto Rico, and while the federal government is working with them to return power to their plants, it’s slow going.  Only 51% of the island has power returned, and the other half could be dark until May.

“A lot of people are referring to this like it’s almost like we’re in a third world country, and there’s some truth to that. These are basic supplies that we have taken for granted. It’s kind of like we’re rationing water in the US,” says Dr. Rita Jew, director of pharmacy at the University of San Francisco Mission Bay Hospital.  

The FDA is working with plastics manufacturers to increase the supply of saline bags to hospitals, allowing Baxter International to import bags from overseas factories.  While Baxter has been shipping to hospitals since October of last year, the demand is still very high.

“Given the improvements we’ve seen over the last few weeks, I’m optimistic that supplies of IV saline and amino acids will increase over the next few weeks and the stress of the shortage will begin to abate, even if the shortages will not be fully resolved immediately,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says.

While hospitals and manufacturers alike are improvising to find solutions, many in the plastics field are recovering from the hurricane and getting back on track.

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