Harrison County

Are epidurals scarce at a Coast hospital? Pregnant women fearful after Facebook post

Memorial Hospital at Gulfport dealt with issues that effected other hospitals in the U.S. after hurricane damage in Puerto Rico caused a shortage in IV fluids.
Memorial Hospital at Gulfport dealt with issues that effected other hospitals in the U.S. after hurricane damage in Puerto Rico caused a shortage in IV fluids.

Word spread this week among women who visit a childbirth page on Facebook that Memorial Hospital at Gulfport was unable to guarantee pregnant women epidurals while in labor, but the hospital says the issue has already been solved.

Erika Statzer of Gulfport posted in the Facebook group where women share questions and information about pregnancy that her doctor told her Tuesday “...Memorial has a saline shortage ... they are cutting out epidurals on a day-to-day basis” and suggested Statzer call when she’s in labor “and see if they are giving epidurals on that day.”

Statzer is 37 weeks pregnant, which is considered term, and definitely wanted an epidural, she told the Sun Herald. She doesn’t consider it elective.

“I think it’s necessary, for me. I don’t handle pain well. I want one,” she said. This is her second child.

So the Sun Herald checked into it and found that doctors in Gulfport were told that Memorial had solved the issue for labor and delivery on Friday.

Gary G. Marchand, president and CEO at Memorial Hospital said this:

“Due to the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, there has been a disruption in the production of certain pharmaceuticals that has resulted in a nationwide shortage of IV solutions.

“At this time, local hospitals are receiving products based on availability, but we have taken various proactive measures to accommodate this temporary shortage. However, we are providing epidurals for our laboring patients.”

Singing River Health System hospitals, for example, are not dealing with a shortage of IV solution.

Few drugs are as useful or as widely used in hospitals as saline — bags of sodium chloride, known as saline, and dextrose, these solutions are normally used to rehydrate patients and to dilute medications from antibiotics and painkillers to cancer drugs.

There has been a scramble by hospitals in the wake of Hurricane Maria to replace normal saline that was produced there. The Washington Post ran a story to that effect on Oct. 11, but updated it to say the situation had improved when the Federal Drug Administration gave one manufacturer permission to import saline and other intravenous solutions from other countries to ease shortages in the United States.

Bianca Wooden and Natasha Woodard teach natural childbirth classes and provide other services at birth. Wooden told the Sun Herald that she understands that it’s very important to women who choose epidurals — a medical procedure requiring IV solution and used to block pain at birth.

She said it would be important to know in advance if a woman, who had prepared to use an epidural, was not going to have that option at birth.

Wooden and Woodard are considering offering a free natural childbirth workshop for women who may face that dilemma, no matter what hospital they chose to use for delivery.

“The group will create a crash course for those of us who haven’t really prepared for it,” Statzer said.

The women’s website is betterbeginningsms.com.