Ohio EMS agencies seeing saline solution shortage, others preparing for it

The Ohio Division of EMS said early results of a survey show about 148 EMS agencies across the state are experiencing a shortage of saline solution often used in IV bags.

The division said about 43% of the 346 EMS agencies who responded to their survey reported to be impacted by the nationwide saline fluid shortage.

The fluid is primarily manufactured by a company located in Puerto Rico where production was disrupted for months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island and knocked out nearly the entire electrical grid.

Parma Fire Department has not felt the impacts of the shortage, but is preparing for it anyway.

“In the prehospital field we use a lot of saline solution for our patients. It provides both a drug access route to keep a vein open; it also provides a volume replacement should people become injured or sick,” explained TJ Martin, the public information officer with Parma Fire Department.

Paramedics are using even more of the solution right now as the area is experiencing an abnormally intense flu season.

“Because of the severity and because people don’t recognize the initial onset of the symptoms, when we see them they get pretty severe so we need to replace that volume in them and these become a big part of that process,” said Martin.

So paramedics are prepared to use alternative solutions if needed and even mix their own before administering it to patients. Martin says a downside is that it takes up time during an emergency situation.

“It may take a couple extra seconds to make that solution up of a medication that the patient needs immediately so if we didn’t have a shortage we wouldn’t have that problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy is relieving some of the pressure by adopting a new policy that allows EMS agencies to sell drugs that are in short supply to each other.