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Local hospitals, ambulance companies dealing with IV bag shortage

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- There's a shortage of IV saline bags. Many of these bags are made in Puerto Rico where the manufacturing plants were damaged by Hurricane Maria.

Hospitals across the country are now struggling because they're running out of the IV bags and on top of that, this is one of the worst flu seasons on record.

Bell Ambulance received a tip from a supplier, acted fast, and they say that they're in much better shape than most.

"The streets of Milwaukee right now are pretty crazy, if you go to any emergency room right now, it looks like a war zone," said Jason Flegner, Bell Ambulance Deputy Operations Director.

Bell Ambulance has had four of their busiest days in history in the last week. Many of the calls are patients with the flu.

"It's just a bad flu season. Our crews are running nonstop, flu patients usually are dehydrated," Flegner said.

To hydrate, they need saline. Right now, the bags are like liquid gold. Hurricane Maria knocked out Baxter plants in Puerto Rico that make them.

"The 100 ml bags of which I don't have any, most of the back stock in Puerto Rico was actually destroyed in their facility. They are very hard to come by right now," Flegner said.

Luckily, Bell Ambulance reacted quickly and ordered a stockpile of the large bags. They have 300 of them each month until May. 

"We know there are a lot of facilities struggling to find it and warehouses and supply houses also struggling. For us to have all of this in back stock, it's kind of like a weight off our shoulders," Flegner said.

Baxter is back up and running. The FDA believes the backorder will clear up this spring. Until then, Bell Ambulance is trying not to run out.

CBS 58 News reached out to local hospitals. Aurora says, "We like other health systems all across the country are faced with a reduced supply of IV bags. We continue to monitor the situation very closely and have put a number of different strategies into place to conserve our supplies. Our utmost priority is, and always will be, ensuring that patients receive the highest quality care."

Froedtert also says they are trying to manage the situation.

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