Area hospitals and clinics deal with IV bag shortage

IV bags are seen at Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology, Jan. 18, 2018. (WLUK photo)

FOX VALLEY (WLUK) -- Hospitals across the country are dealing with a shortage of IV bags and fluid. That's because Hurricane Maria cut into production of the bags in Puerto Rico.

Because of the shortage, hospitals in northeast Wisconsin have taken steps to ensure patient safety.

Hospitals rely on IV bags to keep patients hydrated and administer medications safely. The bags are especially important during flu season.

"Our winter months are always a challenge, even when there isn't a shortage," explained Katherine Vergos, the chief operating and chief nursing officer for St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac.

Staff at St. Agnes realized a shortage was on the horizon at about the time Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

"And so back then we started planning for the shortage," Vergos told FOX 11 News.

And at Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology staff is dealing with the same issues for patients.

"We have actually been getting in about half of our normal volume that we get in daily to weekly," said Melissa Johnson, a registered nurse for Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology.

To ensure patients are protected, the hospital and clinic say constant communication between the pharmacy and other staff is key.

"What the medication is gonna go in that day, how it's gonna be administered, putting the patients' safety first," explained Kassandra Beckmann, the lead pharmacy tech for Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology.

Staff is getting creative to conserve the IV fluid.

For example, at St. Agnes nurses are now administering some antibiotics without the bags.

"Put directly into an IV line and not necessarily have to be mixed with IV solution," Vergos told us.

They're taking similar measures at Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology with chemotherapy.

"We are flushing with ten CC syringes instead of flushing with a bag in between the medication. We're also us a bulb-type of system where we can put the medication in and it's infused that way instead of a bigger volume of fluid," Johnson explained.

The measures mean extra work and stress, but luckily an end is on the horizon.

"We think the shortage is gonna last about, maybe, another couple months here. So we're just doing all we can to save fluids during that time," Beckmann told FOX 11.

Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology told us it always recommends its chemo patients drink lots of fluids. Staff said that can help alleviate the need for even more IV solution.

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