Stock Issues: Community Hacks

The panic sets in – the dreaded phone call I receive from my clients one to two times a month, with an uptick around the festive seasons like Christmas and Easter.

“HELP! I’ve run out of tube feeding formula and equipment stock, and my big delivery isn’t coming for another week!”

In these moments, without the luxury of a nearby hospital kitchen, creativity and resourcefulness become my allies. Here are 6 ways I’ve tackled this recurring issue in the community:

Option 1. Lean on Local Hospitals:
One of the first steps I take is reaching out to the local public hospital where my client was recently a patient. A call to the dietetics department often unveils a compassionate willingness to spare a week’s worth of tube feeding formula and equipment. The kindness of these departments is something I am forever grateful for.

Option 2. Utilise Local Suppliers:
Companies like Surgical House and Superior Healthcare, with warehouses in Melbourne, offer a lifeline. By placing a phone order, clients can pick up emergency supplies – a crucial bridge until their larger order arrives, especially when time is of the essence. I have these suppliers on speed dial.

Option 3. Homemade Blended Solutions:
In situations where immediate resupply is challenging, I sometimes suggest switching to homemade blended tube feeding formula for a few days. This temporary solution helps cover the nutritional gap until the regular supply is restored.

Option 4. Tap into Tubie Support Groups:
The power of community shines when I guide clients to explore Facebook tubie support groups. Here, individuals often donate excess equipment, creating a surprising and effective network that aids in securing emergency stock.

Option 5. Maximise Oral Nutrition (if clinically safe to do so!):
For clients who are also consuming food orally and aren’t facing malnutrition, missing a few days of formula for one or two bolus tube feeds may not pose a significant threat for majority of people (depending on their medical condition of course). Perhaps they can manage to maximise the nutrition going through their mouth in that period with some helpful tips from their dietitian on high energy high protein food additions? Afterall, non-tubies don’t eat the exact same calories every single day!

Option 6. Pharmacy and Supermarket Alternatives:
Local pharmacies and supermarkets offer a quick fix by providing alternatives like hospital grade protein powders or high energy high protein packaged drinks that can actually go through a feeding tube just fine (one of my clients opted to use high protein Up&Go when they were waiting for their formula deliver!). While not a perfect replacement, these readily available options help bridge the gap in calorie and protein needs until the primary supplies are restored.

Option 7. Call on Formula Company Heroes:
In instances where a client is linked to a specific formula company, know that the rep of that company is your ally. Numerous times, contacting the formula company representative has resulted in them having spare formula or equipment in their car. These heroes happily drive over and drop off supplies at the client’s home. While it may sound too good to be true, I assure you, this has happened several times, and I am forever grateful to the amazing company reps who go out of their way to support my clients. Not all heroes wear capes!

Facing the challenge of running out of tube feeding formula and equipment is a common occurrence, but with a bit of ingenuity and a dash of community support, solutions can be found. I often suggest the above 7 options to my clients and depending on their medical condition and preferences, I know what to tackle first.

As a dietitian, my commitment remains unwavering – finding creative ways to ensure that no one is left without the vital supplies they need, especially during those critical times when a week feels like an eternity.

Happy reading and home tube feeding,

Tube Dietitian.