Hospitals cope with saline IV shortage

Hospitals in the region appear to be somewhat immune to a nationwide shortage of saline intravenous solution that has forced facilities elsewhere to scramble.

At Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Mayo Clinic Health System regionally, supplies are still able to meet demand.

"Saline solution comes in different sized bags, and there are limits to some of the sizes available," said Mayo spokesman Nick Hanson. "Because some sizes are not available, we are adjusting to manage our needs on a day-to-day basis. While this is an inconvenience, we are meeting the needs of our patients."

In some cases, saline supplies are being rationed or alternatives used.

Two factors are to blame for the national shortage of saline IVs, used widely to hydrate patients: major influenza outbreaks in some areas of the country have drained the stock, and production has lagged at the three major producers, which had predicted lower supplies even before the flu season began.


"We are, like everyone else, being somewhat impacted by it," said Rick Thiesse, spokesman for Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan health care in La Crosse, Wis.

"We are working with our reps and suppliers to get enough intravenous saline to take care of our patients," he said.

Hospitals nationwide use millions of the IVs a week, and the dearth of supplies is straining many facilities, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"The shortage has been triggered by a range of factors, including a reported increased demand to hospitals, potentially related to the flu season," an FDA statement says.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacies described the situation as a "critical shortage" and urged hospitals to conserve.

The FDA said it is working with the three manufacturers — Baxter International Inc., Hospira Inc. and B. Braun Medical Inc. — to increase production and find alternative sources.

"We have not heard of anyone running out of the IV solutions. ... but we know the hospitals are not comfortable with the low supplies," FDA official Valerie Jensen told Reuters News Agency.

Scott Fabian, materials-management director at Winona Health, said the shortage "is a real issue."


"We have been fortunate to be able to use our strong vendor relationships to keep a supply on hand," he said.

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