Hospitals scramble to adjust to contrast dye shortage

Since the pandemic began, medical supply shortages have become more common - everything from syringes to collection tubes. Now, hospitals are scrambling to keep track of and secure contrast dye used in CT scans.

COVID lockdowns in China triggered the worldwide shortage of the dye used in medical scans. GE Healthcare shutdown its plant in Shanghai, China, a major production facility for contrast dye, for several weeks.

The impact is being felt all over the world and leaving some hospitals in the Atlanta area in limbo.

"There are a relatively small number of countries that make that, that contrast media," says Wesley Wheeler, the president of UPS Healthcare, which is not involved in the contrast dye shortage.

They specialize in storing and shipping cold storage products like vaccines from 130 manufacturing locations to clients around the world.

Wheeler says the contrast storage is one of many pandemic related supply chain issues that drives home the need to diversify the production of critical medical supplies.

"More manufacturing locations, more supply chain routes, more security of supply, more focus on quality." says Wheeler. "The pressure point in the past was cost versus security of supply.  And now that we've had all this public knowledge of supply chain shortages, I think you'll see more diversification in the future."

Metro area hospital systems like Piedmont, Wellstar, Northside ,Tanner and Atrium Health Floyd told FOX 5 they are aware of the worldwide contrast dye shortage, but, so far, it is not impacting their patient care.

Emory Healthcare says surgeries and emergency cases have not been affected, and the hospital system is taking steps to minimize any impact on patients.

Emory says some non-urgent scans may have to be rescheduled, or they may need to use alternate imaging procedures, if the contrast dye shortage continues.

GE hopes to have its contrast dye production fully back online by the end of June.

"There will always be hurricanes, there will always be disruptions.  But, the unusual disruptions we've had, being in lockdown, the pandemic, COVID, and to some extent, labor shortages in the U.S.," says Wheeler." I think when that settles down, we'll be right back into a very normal situation here."

Reports indicate GE Healthcare has shipped some of its dye manufacturing to Ireland, and the company is shipping that dye by air to the US, rather than by boat