Puerto Rico's saline shortage impacts patients across US

KING 5's Amity Addrisi reports.

The hurricanes in Puerto Rico that devastated the island have created a nationwide shortage of saline solution used in hospitals that could take a toll on patients.

Saline solution has a multitude of uses in the medical setting: cleaning instruments, mixing with other drugs, and replacing fluids in a patient.

"Pretty much everybody could possibly have a saline bag administered to them when they come to the hospital," said Tim Holding, a hospital pharmacist.

According to FDA, Puerto Rico produces $40 billion worth of pharmaceuticals like saline for the U.S. market.

The shortage was felt right after the hurricanes wiped out infrastructure on the island, and from there it’s been a domino effect.

"It's continuously needed throughout the whole U.S., so every hospital needs it. So, once one's affected it then the other ones get backlogged, and the shortage starts happening," said Holding.

Paramedics also use the fluid, but not as much, so the effects aren't as severe.

"We had a little difficulty getting it last month, but this month we ordered it, and we got our normal shipment within a week," said Jason Lonie a fire department battalion chief.

But the fear of limited supplies has administrators worried. They're working hard behind the scenes for patients, ensuring they don't see a change in care.

"We've been able to get the supply we need. We have a large network of hospitals throughout that we're able to help each other," said Holding.

Pharmacists say the shortage should end around March, but if it gets too bad, they do have a backup plan.

"We can make it from scratch if we had to as an option, but we aren't expecting it to get to that point," said Holding.

Locally hospitals like Harborview say they’re not experiencing any shortages nor are any other hospitals in the Seattle area.

It seems smaller facilities in outlying areas are at the highest risk of a saline shortage.

© 2017 NBCNEWS.COM


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