IV fluids in short supply after hurricanes hit Puerto Rico

Hospitals say shortage not affecting patients, but local doctor worried

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hospitals around the country are reporting IV saline solution shortages after Hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there has been a shortage since 2014, but the hurricanes made the problem worse because a lot of IV saline solutions are manufactured in Puerto Rico.

Dr. Travis Von Tobel said IVs are critical in running a successful practice, but right now he doesn't know when he'll be able to order them again.

“The shortage we have right now is really a big deal,” Von Tobel said.

Von Tobel said the IV saline solution is used during surgeries and to get critical fluids back into a patient's body. 

Von Tobel said before the shortage, he could get a month's supply in one day, but that's not happening anymore since hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated families and their homes in Puerto Rico.

According to the FDA, Baxter International manufactures IV fluids on the island territory, and the FDA has "taken steps to help Baxter move critical products on and off the island," since the destructive weather put a strain on the medical industry's IV supply. Products are also being "imported from the firm's facilities  in Ireland and Australia."

The FDA website shows five other companies with IV fluid shortages, and some might not recover from the demand until March or June. 

Von Tobel said his concern goes beyond his office. 

“I am more worried for hospitals and patient care,” he said.

Baptist Health, St. Vincent's, Orange Park Medical, Memorial and UF Health in Jacksonville all acknowledge that they are aware of the shortage but said it has not impacted their patients. 

Von Tobel said not knowing when he can order IV fluid supplies again leaves him uneasy, because his supplier has no way of predicting progress in Puerto Rico. 

Von Tobel said he is also running out of sterile water because the same supplier that provides him with IV fluids manufactures the sterile water. 

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