Hurricane damage triggers shortage of key medical treatment in Hawaii

Hospitals across the country are running low on saline solution.

While it might not sound urgent, doctors say the fluid is one of the first things they use to keep people alive.

The shortage is not widespread in Hawaii and we’re told there are no issues treating patients, but we know of at least one health care provider that’s running low.

Saline solution in an IV bag is one of the more common sights in hospital rooms.

Dr. James Ireland says that’s not the only place the solution is used.

“Saline is just so common. It’s used in ambulances, by paramedics, in the pre-hospital setting. It’s used for people who are dehydrated, going to surgery. I’d say 3/4 of the people in any hospital are on saline for IV fluid replacement,” he explained.

In Hawaii, some hospitals get their saline solution from the company Baxter, which is based out of Puerto Rico.

Kaiser Permanente is one of them. A local spokeswoman tells us in order to conserve IV solution, the hospital is opting to administer medications in pill form whenever possible.

The Queen’s Medical Center also uses saline solution, but a spokesperson says the hospital contracts with another company and isn’t affected by the shortage.

According to Ireland, the solution is used in a variety of situations and crucial to treating patients who need fluids.

“Really, if you need IV fluid, if you need saline and you need sterile saline and medical grade, there is no replacement,” he said.

Ireland says if the situation gets worse, hospitals may look to each other to borrow solution if there is a greater need.

If things get worse, it could change how procedures are done.

“I could see things like elective surgeries that aren’t emergencies being put on hold or canceled,” he said.

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