CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NBC Charlotte's Defenders are working to keep you informed on the saline bag shortage that is affecting hospitals in this country.
The shortage is affecting patients who might have a surgery scheduled in the very near future.
Consumer reporter Bill McGinty is reporting more on what you can do and how the medical community is handling the crisis.
The shortage is the result of something that hasn't been in the news much recently, which stemmed from the hurricane season.
Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico September 20, wiping out most of the island's infrastructure, including factories that produce many of the saline bag for the United States.
Those bags are used for administering fluids during surgeries and a wide variety of other medical procedures, both in the hospital and during in office procedures. The lack of production is leaving a ripple effect for patients like Alan Winninger who's had four heart attacks already and says his future catheter procedure will have to delay because it's not deemed an emergency at the moment.
Alan told Bill McGinty “they may not be able to provide it because they are running out of bags.”
Saline is vital for most people who go to a hospital. The liquid has a multitude of uses, from cleaning instruments, to mixing with other drugs, to simply replacing fluids in patients.
According to the FDA, Puerto Rico produces 40 billion dollars' worth of pharmaceuticals like saline for the U.S. market.
Tim Holding is a pharmacist and says "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.”
Pharmacists say the shortage should end around March. If the supply, however, gets too low, they say they can make saline solution from scratch. But let's hope it doesn't come to that. A nurse McGinty spoke with told him some drugs are being administered using other methods to conserve.
NBC Charlotte received this statement tonight in regards to the shortage here in Charlotte:
'Thank you for reaching out and for your patience for me to look into this. Carolinas HealthCare System has not experienced a disruption in care for surgical cases due to the IV bag shortage.' -- Lea Ramsey