Hospitals grapple with medical supply shortages in wake of Hurricane Maria: 4 things to know

Hospitals nationwide are experiencing medical supply shortages caused by lower production levels in Puerto Rico, which produces nearly 10 percent of the U.S.'s drugs, reports The New York Times.

Most hospitals are grappling with a shortage of Baxter's small saline IV bags, which clinicians use to dilute drugs before administering intravenously, although more shortages are likely on the way, according to the report.

The Times spoke with six hospital pharmacists nationwide who said the IV bag shortage has caused hospitals to quickly stock up on other supplies, leading to shortages for items like empty bags and plastic tubing, which Baxter also produces in Puerto Rico.

"We have been able to get what we need to avoid disruptions in patient care, but the mix of products is not ideal, and there are no guarantees we will continue to get the supplies we need," Philip Trapskin, program manager of medication use strategy and innovation at Madison-based University of Wisconsin Health, told The Times.

While the shortages have not affected patient care, the pharmacists said some of the alternative ways to administer the drugs without the small IV bags "require that employees learn new systems or adopt complex practices that can introduce human error," according to The Times.

Some pharmacists said their hospitals may need to postpone elective surgeries if the shortages continue. Baxter did not say when the IV bags would be back in stock.

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