By BRIAN WALKER
Hagadone News Network
COEUR d’ALENE — County officials and local health care facilities are taking precautionary steps amid a nationwide shortage of intravenous fluid and bags.
Kootenai County commissioners approved a disaster emergency declaration to set the stage for federal resources if the situation were to become a local crisis, while medical providers such as Kootenai Health and Panhandle Health District are conserving their supplies when possible.
"The shortage of IV fluids, particularly of saline solution, has been ongoing in the United States and is expected to continue into 2018," according to a Kootenai County written statement. "This is due mainly to repetitive storms which have destroyed facilities that supply the fluids and also because foreign manufacturers cannot meet the United States demand."
Kim Anderson, Kootenai Health spokeswoman, said that while there’s a shortage of IV fluid, it hasn’t reached the point that it’s a crisis. Therefore, the hospital is conserving when it is medically appropriate.
"We’ve changed the way some medications are delivered," Anderson said. "Every case is evaluated whether it’s medically appropriate to have a patient take medication without using fluid."
Some medications, for instance, are given orally.
Local officials say multiple local factors this winter, including an increasing number of flu cases or a major accident on the icy highways, could tilt the scale to where the IV shortage may reach a more critical point.
"Events that cannot be controlled can create a greater need," according to the county’s statement.
The emergency declaration was brought to the commissioners by the county’s Office of Emergency Management.
"The sheriff (who oversees the OEM) wants the community to know there is no need for immediate concern for the general public regarding this shortage," Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kim Edmondson said. "The step we have taken utilizing this declaration process can help involve state and federal resources who may be able to provide assistance to our local health providers."
Anderson said Kootenai Health, Panhandle Health District and the OEM collaborated on the precautionary steps for the IV shortage. She said she’s heard some other hospitals across the country have taken similar approaches.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is working to address the shortage by temporarily allowing the importation of IV fluid from facilities outside the U.S., encouraging the expansion of production at existing facilities and expediting its review of new product applications.
"Unfortunately, most manufacturers are still relying on generator power, and even those that have returned to the electrical grid continue to face interruptions as the grid is rebuilt," according to the FDA.