Ohio changes policy to solve saline shortage

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A nationwide shortage of saline has some health care providers scrambling as flu season hit.

The situation became critical when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico last year and wiped out the world's largest supplier of saline.

In Circleville, in Pickaway County, paramedics are reserving a dwindling supply of saline bags for only the most critical patients.

Circlevile Fire Captain, Aaron Kerns, says the timing could be worse as flu season kicks into high gear.

Paramedics' plan B is to push saline into patients using pre-filled saline syringes, but it's not ideal. It takes about 100 syringes to replace one 1000cc saline bag.

"It feels like you have your hands tied when you have a patient, and you know you can help this patient, but if the supplies aren't there to help them you do the best you can," said Captain Kerns.

But Friday afternoon, the Circleville Fire Department was down to one large bag of saline when Captain Kerns received an unexpected but welcome phone call from a state agency offering to sell some of its reserve supply of saline.

A few hours later, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced a new policy to permit EMS agencies to sell to each other drugs that are currently in short supply.

Within one hour of receiving that phone call, Captain Kerns traveled to Columbus to pick up a precious package of 14-saline bags

"It eases the stress a little bit knowing we can provide patient care if the people call 911," said Kerns.