GREENSBORO, NC -- More than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the Island of Puerto Rico, Triad hospitals are starting to feel impacts of the storm’s aftermath.
10 percent of all the drugs Americans take are made in Puerto Rico as well as dozens of medical devices.
Due to the hurricane damage on the island, many of the factories that produce those products are not operating right now.
As a result, some hospitals in the U.S. including Moses Cone and others across the state of North Carolina are not receiving the items that doctors give to patients every day.
The shortage of drugs and supplies is so concerning, Jim Mundy with Cone Health says the hospital formed a task force find solutions so patients don't feel any extra pain.
"We can't leave a stone unturned," said Mundy. "Every option that we can find to make sure that the needs of the patient are being met has to be explored."
Mundy says Cone Health was already facing a drug shortage and Hurricane Maria's devastation on the pharmaceutical plants in Puerto Rico made it worse.
“I would gather to say that we are probably close to 200 drugs that we are trying to manage through shortages in some way or fashion,” said Mundy. “Some of the drugs are drugs that we use rarely but other drugs are workhorse drugs that we use quite often.”
The hospital is also facing a shortage of IV bags -- a product used by patients more than 150,000 times a year!
Authorities say it could take months to restore power fully to Puerto Rican manufacturing plants.
“When the supply chain is interrupted, it has tremendous downstream effects,” said Mundy. “Cone health and many other hospitals across the nation are going to be doing with the same issues.”
To make up for the shortage, leaders at Cone Health have been contacting third party vendors to stockpile as many drugs and supplies as they can.
Cone Health formed a task force of employees to handle procurement, management, and distribution of the items across their network of hospitals.
During the shortage, Mundy says Cone Health has multiple contingency plans in place – conserving resources and using alternative treatments when possible.
“We are not looking into next week or the week after. We are looking months down the road, sometimes even years down the road,” said Mundy. “We are trying to make sure that the products that are needed by our patients are available to them whenever they come in.”
Cone Health is not the only hospital dealing with this drug shortage problem.
Officials at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center did not immediately return phone calls about their availability of medical supplies.
But Mundy says the drug shortage problem is affecting hospitals all over the country.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now involved in the issue.
The F.D.A. recently started allowing medical supplies to be shipped in from other countries while also supplying logistical help to companies in Puerto Rico.
Doctors say if you undergo regular pain treatment, you should check with your doctor before going to your next appointment to make sure they have what you need.