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Lifesaving dye facing international critical shortage; affecting Kentucky hospitals

With GE Healthcare's main facility getting tied up in the lockdowns, that meant a critical shortage for hospitals even here in the Bluegrass.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Contrast media, a liquid dye injected before some CT scans and other tests, is in short supply.

"It's not going to be something that's going to be resolved in the next few days, even if Shanghai were to produce mass produced amounts," Ashley Montgomery-Yates with UK Healthcare said.

It’s a problem happening more than 7,000 miles away.

ABC News reports strict lockdowns due to COVID-19 in Shanghai have lasted months, impacting production.

The dye produced at GE Healthcare's plant there is creating an international critical shortage.

"There's really two types of contrasts in the world, probably 60% of people use this one by GE and 30 to 40% of people around the world use the other type, and it's a one or the other," Montgomery-Yates said.

Ashley Montgomery-Yates said contrast media like Omnipaque and Visipaque are used in CT scans and more to help highlight possible issues.

Well, with GE Healthcare's main facility getting tied up in the lockdowns, that meant a critical shortage for hospitals even here in the Bluegrass.

"How do you get it to America? How do you get it to the hospitals, GE is now flying it over from China instead of boating and all those sorts of things to try to expedite the process," Montgomery-Yates said.

She notes they're starting to ration their supply, from what they could use a whole bottle for, they're now splitting into 10-ml increments.

Hollie Poindexter from Jeffersonville, Indiana has a six-year-old son named Koi who suffers from epilepsy.

Some of his tests require contrast media and Poindexter says they've seen them done with and without it.

"He had done the order with and without contrast, he wanted both," Poindexter said.

MRI's use another form of contrast that is seemingly not being affected right now, however, Poindexter says it is scary to know hospitals here have to rely on other countries for this dye that can be lifesaving in many cases.

"I think we could absolutely have more stuff made here to where we don't have to rely on so many countries," Poindexter said.

We spoke with representatives at UofL Health and they told me they're actually not being affected but just across the street at Norton Hospital, they say they are but they are working to conserve their stock so there is disrupt in patient care.

For those that are affected by the shortage, they're wondering when will the supply chain go back to normal?

"What we've been told is probably just by July 1, that at least the production will be up to 100%, but maybe not the supply and the distribution part," Montgomery-Yates said.

For Montgomery-Yates, she says they are having to even reschedule some patients who may be at major risk.

Saying they just want to make sure they have enough for moments that may not be expected.

We reached out to GE Healthcare and they say they are actively working to get production back up.  You can read their statement here.

► Contact reporter Ford Sanders at FSanders@whas11.com on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

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