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IV bag shortage hits area hospitals

Local and area hospitals and other health care providers are responding to effects of an IV bag shortage caused by Hurricane Maria, which crippled Puerto Rico last fall. Puerto Rico is a major source of IV bags to the United States.

When IV bags can be bought they come at a very inflated price due to supply and demand factors caused by the shortage. Cheryl Hale, director of pharmacy at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, said the shortage is being managed by reserving use of IV bags  drugs for certain situations and by seeking sources that have bags available in bulk.

"We're now reserving use of IV medications for ambulance calls, emergency room admissions and after operations of patients," she said. "We've asked doctors to administer oral pain medications whenever possible."

Hale said that not only are IV bag shortages due to the hurricane affecting hospitals but also shortages of IV medications caused by closures of manufacturing plants by the Food and Drug Administration following inspections.

"Everybody is in the same boat looking for sources of IV bags and drugs," she said.

Lane Hooton, chief operating officer of Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma, said that his firm anticipated shortages and purchased a very large supply of IV bags back in October but still had to make some recent purchases due to the great need for them.

"There appears to be no end to the shortages and prices are getting out of sight," he said. "Before the shortage, an IV bag cost under $5 but we're now seeing bags for as much as $60 apiece and $80 bags could come soon."

Hooton said the center must have the bags available for its patients and is having to absorb the much higher costs as the higher prices cannot be easily passed on to patients.

"The near future for availability of IV bags does not look good," he said.

The Lawton Constitution

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