Chapel Hill, N.C. — Hurricane Maria is beginning to put a crimp in medical supplies at Triangle-area hospitals.
Ten percent of the prescription drugs Americans take are manufactured in Puerto Rico, as are dozens of medical devices. A month after the hurricane devastated the island, the pharmaceuticals and device factories are operating at a fraction of capacity, if at all, so area hospitals aren’t receiving needed supplies.
Veda Williams of Carrboro said she has to go to the emergency room to manage the excruciating pain whenever has chronic pancreatitis flares up.
“Typically, when I have an acute episode, I need morphine, and I also need what’s called a ringer IV. It’s a special kind of drip fluid that has nutrients in it,” Williams said Tuesday.
But when Williams went to UNC Hospitals last week, she was told there was a shortage of both supplies and was given a different medication.
“I asked why the shortage, and [the doctor] explained that Pfizer had a plant that was stationed out in Puerto Rico that had been destroyed,” Williams said. “As a result, there’s a severe shortage of morphine and ringer bags throughout the entire United States.”
Authorities say it could take months to restore power fully to Puerto Rican manufacturing plants.