BOSTON (CBS) – Just as flu season hits its stride, there is a nationwide shortage of intravenous bags. The problem can be traced to Hurricane Maria. When the storm hit Puerto Rico in September, it knocked one of the country’s major suppliers of IV bags offline.
The bags are used to deliver fluids and medications to patients. When in short supply, medical professionals have to use alternative methods of delivery which can be far more time consuming.
Dr. Paul Biddinger, Chief of the Division of Emergency Preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells CBS News that the situation is serious.
“This is a nationwide problem, which is part of what makes it so hard. We can’t borrow from any other hospital.
“We’re very concerned that we are right on the edge of a cliff of not being able to take care of patients the way we normally do because we don’t have the IV fluids that are necessary to give them medicines and to give them the hydration they need.”
In a statement released late last week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said power has been restored to the medical supply facility in Puerto Rico, and things are improving.
“Based on the information we’re receiving from the companies, we expect that the shortage of IV saline fluids will improve in early 2018, with continuing improvements in the weeks ahead,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Biddinger told CBS that he worries about the low supply during peak flu season.
“If we had a very severe flu season start to develop in the next weeks and months, that could push us over the edge.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 46 states, including Massachusetts, are experiencing widespread flu activity.