Saline shortage puts strain on healthcare professionals

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE)- Healthcare professionals say normal saline has been hard to come by for more than six months and they say there’s no end in sight.

Those in the industry say it is not an emergency situation yet, but doctors insist something must be done to increase supply.

Doctors at Presbyterian Hospital said up to 90-percent of their patients receive normal saline, but with a nationwide  shortage they’re having to get creative to ensure they have enough for everyone who needs it.

Doctors and first responders use the solution for things like treating dehydration and administering medication through an IV. Now many are thinking twice before they hook up patients to IV’s.

“It’s extremely frustrating. It’s been effecting our ability to render patient care in some cases,” Superior Ambulance Special Projects Manager, Joseph Chacon said.

Chacon said the saline shortage affects all aspects of patient care.

“We’ve been fortunate to meet our needs for our patients but with the prolonged shortage, it’s getting more and more difficult,” Chacon said.

It is why he says they are having to get more creative as to how they meet those needs.

“If the patient absolutely needs the fluids, they will administer it,” Chacon said.

Representatives with Presbyterian confirms it’s not just first responders seeing the shortage. Presbyterian Hospital’s Medical Director of Patient Safety, Pam Cutler, said the solution has been in short supply since August.

Cutler said they have been taking conservation measures as much as they can without jeopardizing the safety of their patients.

According to the FDA, there are a number of factors that have put saline in short supply, but indicate a greater need over the flu season as a contributor.

Cutler agrees, saying it only made the shortage worse. She said they have an incident committee that meets every week to monitor supply and says they have plans in place to avoid a real disastrous situation.

KRQE News 13 put in calls to all three saline manufacturers to learn more about the shortage and heard back from two, Hospira and Baxter. Representatives with Hospira told KRQE News 13 their shortage is not due to any sort of manufacturing issues. Representatives with Baxter said they are working hard to make the availability of the solution more predictable.

Cutler said there is a bigger issue at hand and she has been seeing drug shortages for the last five years. She says it’s a safety risk, affecting healthcare across the board- not to mention it raises prices.

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