Officials: Shortage of IV bags touches county, but not patient care

A nationwide shortage of IV bags has touched Berkshire County - but not with any detriment to patient care, officials at area hospitals say.

A nationwide shortage of IV bags has touched Berkshire County — but not with any detriment to patient care, officials at area hospitals say.

"It's not negatively impacting the patient," said Doreen Hutchinson, vice president of operations and chief nurse at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, which is part of Berkshire Health Systems.

Fairview received notice that there would be a shortage of IV bags from its supplier, Baxter, at least six weeks ago.

The shortage arose from the far-reaching consequences of Hurricane Maria, which made landfall Sept. 20. It knocked out plants in Puerto Rico belonging to Baxter.

The shortage has affected medical facilities nationwide, including Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Officials at Fairview met immediately to plan how to handle the situation. They looked at how many bags were being used in which departments, and which departments would be more impacted by a shortage than others.

Since the shortage began, they've used different-size bags as needed, to better use what they have available.

Either way, the patient still receives the same medication or fluids by the same means, Hutchinson said.

"We've not had to have a major change in our practice at all," she said.

Hutchinson said she has not heard any negative feedback about the IV bags through patient advocates or patient satisfaction surveys.

The most acute bag shortages were from September to November. Berkshire Health Systems is seeing an improvement in the availability of IV bags, Michael Leary, director of media relations for Berkshire Health Systems, said in an email.

"We are optimistic the situation will continue to improve," he said in the email.

In the meantime, alternative resources have been used, and certain medications have been changed to IV push, which does not use the traditional IV bag.

Berkshire Health Systems includes Berkshire Medical Center and the Hillcrest Campus of BMC in Pittsfield, the North Adams Campus of BMC in North Adams and Fairview Hospital.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@berkshireeagle.com, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.