Some Toronto hospitals report epidural catheter shortage as global supply issues persist

As global supply issues regarding epidural catheters continue, some hospitals in the Toronto-area are beginning to report shortages while others say they are monitoring the situation closely.

In an email to Global News on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the William Osler Health System said it, and other hospitals across Canada, are “currently experiencing shortages of epidural catheters that are used to support pain management during childbirth and lower extremity/abdominal surgeries.”

“As soon as Osler became aware of the potential shortage, we began working closely with suppliers and government partners to secure inventory, and mitigate impacts to services at our hospitals,” the email read.

Read more: Waterloo Region hospitals say they still have steady supply of epidural catheters

The William Osler Health System includes three healthcare facilities which serve Brampton and Etobicoke.

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The spokesperson said the William Osler Health System has developed an epidural catheter supply strategy to “meet the emergent and urgent needs of our patients.”

“We continue to monitor the evolving situation to ensure our patients continue to receive safe, quality care,” the email said.

Meanwhile, in an email to Global News, a spokesperson for Lakeridge Health — which operates hospitals in Durham Region —  said the network is facing a “potential shortage” of the devices.

“Although we have an adequate supply of epidural catheters for the short-term, we are working with our partners at Ontario Health and the Ministry of Health who are actively engaging with Health Canada, suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers across Ontario to understand the current situation and supply forecasts,” the email read.

Global News also reached out to a several other hospitals in the Toronto area to determine whether they are experiencing a epidural catheter shortage.

The Women’s College Hospital told Global News it is “closely monitoring the supply of epidural catheters.”

However, the hospital said “currently” its supply is “stable and there is no impact to patient care.”

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Similarly, in a statement emailed to Global News, Jennifer Bordin, the director of maternal, newborn and child health services at Michael Garron Hospital, said the hospital is “aware some Canadian provinces recently reported shortages in the availability of epidural catheters due to supply chain issues.”

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“At this time, we have sufficient supplies to continue to meet the needs of patients,” Bordin said. “Our teams are closely monitoring the situation and working in partnership with suppliers, hospital leaders and Ontario Health to prepare contingency plans should this become a long-lasting shortage.”

North York General Hospital said it is “currently able to provide epidurals to any patient in labour who requests one.”

“We continue to monitor the situation closely in partnership with Ontario Health and our supply chain partners,” a spokesperson said in an email to Global News.

Read more: Lack of communication on epidural shortage ‘frustrating,’ doctors say

Global News also reached out to Sunnybrook Hospital and the University Hospital Network, but did not immediately hear back.

A request for comment was also sent to Ontario’s Ministry of Health, however, Global News did not receive a reply by time of publication.

Dr. Lucie Filteau, an anesthesiologist at The Ottawa Hospital, previously told The Canadian Press, on average, about 50 to 60 per cent of pregnant women across Canada rely on epidurals to manage pain.

The highest use — up to 80 per cent — is in urban areas where more anesthesiologists are available to provide that service, especially to those having their first baby, Filteau said.

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Epidural catheters are also used during surgeries in the lower extremities.

-with files from The Canadian Press.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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