Shortage of normal saline nationwide

Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico has created a ripple effect in the medical industry, including here in Delaware.

Puerto Rico is home to manufacturing facilities of many of the country’s top pharmaceutical companies, including Astra Zeneca, Merck and Pfizer. The hurricane damaged many of those factories, substantially curbing production in some places. The Puerto Rican workforce is in limbo, with many people struggling to get to work in the wake of the disaster.

Due to the crisis, Bayhealth, which operates Milford Memorial Hospital and Kent General Hospital, in Dover, have a shortage in IV fluid bags containing 250 milliliters or less.

"It could take up to six to eight months to resolve the manufacturing issues in Puerto Rico. At this time, supply is a major issue at Bayhealth and at every hospital across the country. We are working closely with our clinical teams to determine the best course of action for when we run out of supply," said Bayhealth Director of Pharmacy Alex Zarow. 

IV fluid bags contain normal saline, a mixture of sterile water and 0.9 percent sodium chloride, or salt, to administer all manner of medications. They are essential for hospital function. Different medications and dosages require different amounts of normal saline, but small IV fluid bags are popular for starting IV lines, administering blood and flushing lines.

In response to the shortage, Bayhealth’s pharmacy will obtain normal saline from other hospitals and prepare its own bags of smaller amounts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has responded by allowing some normal saline producers to import larger volumes of products from Australia and Ireland.