U.S. Hospitals Feeling the Pinch And It's Not Budget Cuts

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND--They're facing a shortage of medications and local hospitals are no exception.

"Throughout my 40-year career, we have experienced shortages, that's just part of life in pharmacy, but nothing to the extent that we have experienced over the last 16 to 18 months," John Harrington, Director of Pharmacy for Midland Memorial Hospital, said.

Harrington says there's many reasons for the shortage and it's hitting hospitals straight across the board, "We've had one manufacturer who has had to shut down certain lines. We have had several other manufacturers who have stopped producing certain lines. Hospitals throughout the nation are being affected greatly. We have been fortunate. Our physicians have worked very well with us when we have been running low on items."

The medications in question, at Midland Memorial Hospital, are used all over, from the emergency room to the operating room. They even have a list of about 10 items that they can't get their hands on at all. Unfortunately, there's very little they can do about it.

According to Harrington, "One of our major generic suppliers is Hospira and they are working on their lines to increase capacity. Also the FDA is working on trying to encourage manufacturers to, at least, give notice, prior to dropping a product line."

So far, there's been little effect on patients. Midland Memorial gets help from other local hospitals like the Allison Cancer Center and Medical Center in Odessa and does the same for them. But they also have their own in-house solution.

"Most of the shortage we're experiencing, right now, is with generic, injectable products. With antibiotics, with pain medication, the physicians at Midland Memorial have been very good to work with us to select alternatives when we've had trouble getting things," Harrington explained.

Harrington added all this does come with a price, especially when you have to get your supply from somebody else, "Not so much cost to the patient, but there has been and increased cost to Midland Memorial Hospital. Some of the product that has been used, in place of the product that has been shorted, has been a more expensive product."

The bottom line for Midland Memorial, sometimes it hasn't been easy, but they're still able to provide the best patient care they can.

"So far, we have been able to either provide the drug or provide a reasonable alternative. It may not have been the preferred alternative, but we have been able to provide an alternative," Harrington said.