Hospitals grapple with saline shortages

Hospitals nationwide are facing a shortage of common saline products because of supply chain bottlenecks and a large spike in demand amid the omicron surge, Bloomberg reported March 4.

Pharmacists and saline manufacturers said they expect shortages of saline vials and bags to ease as the omicron surge continues to slow. Baxter, the nation's largest supplier of saline bags, is doing everything possible to maximize production and expedite shipping during the shortage, spokesperson Lauren Russ told Bloomberg. Saline manufacturer Fresenius SE's sites are also running at full capacity, a spokesperson said.

Pfizer, a major supplier of small saline vials, has used many of its containers for COVID-19 vaccines in the past year, another contributing factor to the shortages. The drugmaker has increased vial production and hopes to see supplies increase by this spring, spokesperson Julia Cohen told Bloomberg.

In the meantime, hospitals are struggling to get by. Children's Mercy Kansas City in Missouri is operating with about 70 percent of the saline it normally needs, according to Bethany Baker, PharmD, the hospital's director of pharmacy clinical services. The shortage is complicating care for healthcare workers, who must use bigger IV vials and bags for children, as the smaller products were among the first to run out.

Erin Fox, PharmD, senior pharmacy director at Salt Lake City-based University of Utah Health, said the shortages create "a very frustrating situation for staff" who "are already overworked and doing 100 other things."

"In the past, there was wiggle room, but everything is out now," she told Bloomberg.

While saline manufacturers said they are hopeful shortages will resolve soon, the Russia-Ukraine conflict could further exacerbate shortages, Premier warned March 1.

View the full report here.

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