Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with devastating effects on September 20, 2017. Baxter activated a global response to the hurricane to support the needs of patients and healthcare providers in the U.S. and our employees on the island.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of Baxter’s employees in Puerto Rico and our hurricane preparedness actions, limited manufacturing operations resumed within a week of the storm’s passing. And full manufacturing production resumed following the connection of all Baxter facilities to the island’s electric grid late in 2017, which led to the resumption of pre-hurricane manufacturing levels in early 2018. Reliable and stable electric power was key to the full recovery of sustainable manufacturing operations on the island. Baxter maintained backup diesel generators in all facilities on the island to run the facilities during the grid power interruptions that occurred in the weeks and months following the hurricane, and continues to do so.
Baxter deeply appreciates the support of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Puerto Rico Power Authority (PREPA), and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló and his staff for their support during our recovery.
A Global Response to Support U.S. Product Supply
In Puerto Rico, Baxter manufactures MINI-BAG and MINI-BAG Plus (small volume parenterals, or SVPs) Container Systems, which are primarily used in the pharmacy to compound or admix a medication or to aid in the delivery of a medication, as well as amino acids and certain pre-mixed products.
To help support product supply for the U.S. market, Baxter activated targeted recovery strategies across our global manufacturing network, including working with the FDA to secure regulatory discretion for the temporary special importation of certain products from Baxter facilities in Ireland, Australia, Canada, Mexico, England, Italy and Brazil. Since the special importations began in October 2017, millions of units have been shipped to hospitals across the U.S.
In addition to the availability of SVPs, Baxter’s large volume parenterals (LVPs, often referred to as “saline”) are available across the U.S. Baxter does not manufacture LVPs in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria did not interrupt their production. To help support customer demand for LVPs, Baxter is bringing in additional LVP units from a manufacturing facility in Mexico, through a permanent FDA approval.
Preparing for the Future: A Global Approach for Product Supply
To create additional manufacturing flexibility to support future IV solution needs in the U.S., Baxter is working with the FDA regarding permanent approval of several global facilities as alternate manufacturing sites, which would allow Baxter to import certain products into the U.S. Currently, the FDA has granted permanent approval for the importation of certain SVP and LVP products from facilities in Ireland, Spain and Mexico.
Supporting Baxter Employees and Communities in Puerto Rico
Baxter mobilized quickly in the aftermath of the storm to help our employees and their communities. Our work force not only faced daily challenges getting to and from work as transportation and services were damaged or destroyed, but they had to deal with the urgent basic needs of their own families and neighbors.
Baxter helped more than 2,000 employees in Puerto Rico procure necessities such as gasoline, food, water and toiletries. We coordinated multiple daily flights to transport approximately 25,000 pounds of needed supplies for employees. We distributed gas-powered generators and propane cooktops, and installed laundry stations at our manufacturing facilities to support employees’ personal needs. And Baxter provided employees with financial assistance to support their recovery.
We also provided the communities around our manufacturing facilities with access to potable water. The support of our employees and their families in Puerto Rico continued in the weeks and months following the hurricane. During the 2017 holiday season our employees hosted gift drives that collected toys, books, school supplies and sporting goods that were sent to our employees and their families on the island.