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Delaware physicians ration amid shortage of IV bags, fluids

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Delaware Public Media
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There is a shortage of IV bags and fluids nationwide—including here in Delaware. Officials say it’s due to the devastation left by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last fall.

Federal tax incentives created in the 1960s and 70s led to many of the country’s medical supplies to be made in Puerto Rico. Since Hurricane Maria slammed into that island last September production has slowed, leaving many states with a shortage of small IV bags and fluids like saline or lactated ringers.

Wayne A. Smith is the President and CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Commission. He says physicians have techniques to administer fluids to patients without the bags, if necessary.

“There is a push method that takes more of a nurse’s time than just hanging a drip bag, where they have to slightly push on a tube of fluids to get it introduced into a patient’s system,” said Smith.

Smith says no surgeries in the First State, optional or critical, have been affected by the shortage.

But some physicians say they’ve begun to ration saline fluids.

The Medical Society of Delaware’s Dr. Tony Cuccazella is a pain management specialist at the Christiana Spine Center. He says the shortage has forced him to further assess the necessity for a saline drip during some procedures.

“If the patient becomes hypotensive during a procedure and they feel they may pass out, we do have saline available, but we are not providing it routinely as we would prefer to,” said Cuccazella.

In addition to there being a shortage of supplies, hospitals in the state are also being taxed by an influx of flu patients and have begun using overflow procedures to accommodate them.

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