SALEM — Area hospitals are taking steps to conserve certain types of intravenous fluids as a result of shortages caused by Hurricane Maria. 

The Department of Public Health issued an advisory memorandum last week to hospitals and other healthcare facilities concerning the ongoing shortage due to plant shutdowns in Puerto Rico, where a significant percentage of IV solutions and bags are manufactured. 

“The intravenous (IV) fluid products manufacturing industry has a significant presence in Puerto Rico; this industry is experiencing disruption as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria,” Kerin Melisky, director of the state’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality, wrote in a memo to healthcare providers last Thursday.

The shortages are mainly affecting small volume solutions of 100 milliliters (about 3 1/2 ounce) bags, which are used to intravenously administer medications such as antibiotics through an IV line. 

At Lahey Hospital in Peabody and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, nurses are using alternatives such as directly injecting medications into IV lines when possible, said Dan Marra, senior manager of media relations for Lahey. 

Lahey is also following other Food and Drug Administration tips on conservation. 

“This doesn’t impact patient care at all,” said Marra. “Hospitals are taking steps to use fewer bags while ensuring patient safety.” 

Besides directly injecting medication into lines when possible, the hospital is also using alternatives such as larger bags when possible.

Over at Salem Hospital, part of Partners North Shore Medical Center, the nursing staff is also taking measures to conserve the bags. 

“It’s been on the radar for a while,” said Lisa Herlihy, director of nursing quality and practice.  

Nurses and doctors are being kept up to date in weekly conference calls, said Herlihy. 

“From a local perspective what we’ve been trying to do is convert all of the IV medications to an oral route of administration whenever possible,” said Herlihy. 

Nurses are also doing daily assessments to determine when IV fluids are no longer necessary. 

The hospital is also holding off on preparing IV solutions in advance.

Like Lahey, nurses are also using syringes to introduce medications into existing IV lines when possible and appropriate, although not all medications or antibiotics can be given that way. 

Herlihy said she is hopeful that the shortages can be addressed within a month or two. 

“We’re hoping that it’s going to be a very short-term process,” Herlihy said. 

Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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