Alaska hospitals impacted by IV shortage

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Hurricane Maria did more than just destroy the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. It has forced hospitals across the nation to take aggressive steps towards conserving their IV supply.

Baxter Puerto Rico, a medical company, was heavily damaged in the extreme weather event; moreover, it is responsible for supplying the majority of hospitals in the U.S., including some here in Alaska, with IV product.

"When Hurricane Maria was heading towards the island, we were notified very quickly that there was going to be an issue with supply, and the supply was already tenuous," said Dr. James Bunch, director of Clinical Pharmacy for Mat-Su Valley Regional.

But Dr. Bunch said that thanks to his team of hard working nurses and pharmacists, they've been able to find ways to provide the same medical treatments for patients – even now with a smaller supply of IV.

"And what we decided to do was aggressively change people from IV meds to oral meds, when was appropriate and when there was equivalent opportunity to do so," said Dr. Bunch.

The hospital said they've also been performing IV pushes, which is a medication technique that delivers a dose of medication – injected all at once directly into a vein or access port – to produce an immediate peak drug level in the patient's bloodstream. Dr. Bunch said that while Puerto Rico and suppliers of IV product are working to get back to full production, he's confident that the generators that are being used to keep up distribution will be enough to prevent an IV crisis.

"I don't foresee us ever running out of product. I don't foresee any of our patients being affected by this," stated Dr. Bunch. "But it is affecting our man hours and how much stress it is on our staff – our nursing staff. We use to do this easier and with less time."

At this point, the Federal Government has also stepped in. You can view their most recent statement on the issue, by clicking here.

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