National saline shortage has QC hospitals on watch

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Local hospitals are closely monitoring their stock of saline as a national shortage of the solution threatens supplies.

Ken Croken, Genesis Health System's vice president of corporate communication and business development, said so far, Genesis has been able to keep enough saline in supply by utilizing multiple distributors and manufacturers.

The national shortage, though, has staff on close watch, and they are using alternative solutions whenever possible to preserve the hospital's supply.

"We are concerned enough to monitor our supply," said Croken, "but at this point, there is no limitation in our ability to care for our patients."

Beginning Friday, February 14, 2014, Genesis plans to give internal updates to staff every morning regarding saline levels.

"We've developed a monitoring mechanism that meets literally daily to assess the level of inventory, the level of anticipated demand, and the likelihood of increased resources," said Croken.

Croken said doctors and nurses consider saline solution a staple to their work, using it many times a day for drug administration, hydration, and other purposes.

"It is truly a workhorse supply for us," said Croken.

Suppliers have blamed the shortage on higher-than-normal flu rates this year in several regions of the country. Croken said the Quad Cities has not seen an increase in flu numbers, but that local hospitals are still feeling the nationwide pinch.

Croken also believes the saline shortage highlights a larger, national health problem.

"I believe people should be concerned about our capacity as a nation to provide these sorts of low-margin, generic medical supplies and drugs," said Croken. "When there is an unexpected increase in demand, we're not always as equipped as we'd like to think the nation will be in such situations."

For now, though, staff at Genesis hospitals are simply being careful.

Suppliers have told hospital staff that once flu season subsides, they should be able to meet full demand for saline once again.


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