Serious shortage of IV bags at local hospitals due to Hurricane Maria

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A nationwide shortage of saline bags is hitting hospitals here in East Tennessee.

Local 8 News Anchor Lauren Davis spoke to several health care systems who are counting their supplies to make sure they can treat patients.

East Tennessee Children's Hospital uses a large number of saline bags for everything from rehydrating patients to mixing medications and keeping wounds clean during surgery.

Puerto Rico produced most of the saline bags out there before Hurricane Maria knocked out power limiting production.

"We are concerned. It isn't critical, but it's serious because we're having to meet daily and take stock of what we have and make sure we're able to meet the needs of patients," East Tennessee Children's Hospital Chief Medical Officer Joe Childs said.

Dr. Childs said the hospital is receiving 75 percent less than they were before the hurricane. Due to the decrease, the hospital is conserving where they can and thinking about using another form of hydration.

"It's a daily juggling act that no one bedside knows about," Childs said.

Dr. Childs said the hospital is currently able to meet the medical needs of patients.

Covenant Health, which owns nine hospitals from Cumberland to Claiborne County, reported also having a shortage of saline bags.

"The nurse gives medication through IV, so we haven't changed the medications just the process we deliver medications," Covenant Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Browne said.

UT Medical Center also said they are experiencing a shortage and have been monitoring inventory daily.

All three hospitals told Local 8 News reporter Lauren Davis they are extending hang time of an IV bag to make them last longer.

So far, neither hospitals have had to cancel any surgeries due to the shortage. Hospital officials expect the shortages to continue through the beginning of next year.

If the shortage gets too critical, hospitals will share their bags with each other.

On a national level, the FDA is also looking into importing fluids from European countries which would happen in January, according to Dr. Childs.