IV fluid shortage forces Long Island hospital to transfer patient

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Danielle Leigh reports on the shortage facing a hospital in Suffolk County.

Ongoing IV fluid shortages exacerbated by Hurricane Maria have forced John T. Mather hospital in Suffolk County to transfer a patient to another facility due to an inability to obtain necessary supplies.

The patient was taken to Stony Brook Hospital instead.

"The patient who we transferred could not take nutrition by mouth and needed a specialized IV solution that we could not get in time," wrote a spokesperson from John T Mather hospital in a statement.

This incident is the latest example of hospitals nationwide making tough choices since Hurricane Maria damaged production facilities in Puerto Rico. The September storm made worse ongoing supply limitations in existence since 2014.

In a recent letter to the FDA, the American Hospital Association wrote, "We are concerned that the shortages of widely-used and critical products are quickly becoming a crisis and looming threat to the public's health."

The storm damaged factories in Puerto Rico with the important task of producing the IV fluid bags used daily by hospitals in the thousands to deliver medication, nutrients and hydration to patients, run by big manufacturers such as Baxter.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists surveyed hospitals about the shortage in November, and 96 percent of respondents reported moderate to severe impacts.

Less than a quarter of the responding facilities reported having more than a 14-day supply of certain solutions. Nationwide, hospitals have been developing creative methods to address the shortages.

At NYC Health + Hospitals, pharmacists are pooling their resources to avoid lapses in patient care.
"We are conserving," said Victor Cohen, assistant vice president of pharmacy services at NYC Health + Hospitals. "If there is any one facility falling short, we can always have one facility support and lend to a different facility."

Cohen said the health group's monthly allotment has been sufficient for them.
Across the country in Washington State, the University of Washington School of Medicine has changed how doctors deliver medication and has used alternative fluids to insure supplies last.

"We have to make those changes almost daily depending on what drug supply we get," said Kim Donnelly, of UW Medicine Pharmacy Services. "We would do what it takes to take care of our patients."

The FDA is temporarily allowing certain IV products to be imported from outside the US while this shortage persists, and it is also encouraging existing facilities to expand production to meet the demands and expediting federal review of new product applications.

Hospital representatives said they are waiting on those foreign supplies, which they hope will help mitigate the shortage.

Eyewitness News reached out to other area health systems about the IV fluid shortage. They declined to comment.

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