On a given day, most of Massachusetts General Hospital’s 1,000 beds are typically spoken for. During this high-volume flu season in the Commonwealth, however, a single empty bed can be impossible to find. The influx of flu patients, combined with a Hurricane Maria-induced IV bag shortage, has forced many area hospitals to think creatively about patient care.
“It does put an additional strain on us because we do have to find space for those extra people,” said Mass General Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President O’Neil Britton, MD. “It’s that much more work for our already hard-working staff.”
At Mass General, an example of that ingenuity comes in the form of a supermarket-shelf staple: the popular electrolyte-balancing sports drink, Gatorade. For those flu patients who are well enough to drink liquids, staff here have found that Gatorade restores hydration and electrolytes nearly as well as intravenous fluids. The substitution is just one of the many alternate strategies that are helping the hospital’s care teams to circumvent the IV bag shortage until supplies are restored, as conditions improve in their manufacturing hub, Puerto Rico.