Quebec patients are usually blissfully oblivious to the perilous behind-the-scenes balancing act involved in supplying the medicine that can mean the difference between life and death.

Sometimes the drugs run out, expire or become unavailable and that’s not an easy situation to deal with, according to officials.

“We're able to cope but it requires us to have a rapid response team and make sure that things are addressed rapidly because sometimes these are essential medications, said Andre Bonnici who heads the MUHC Pharmacy Department.

Last week the MUHC hospitals ran out of a medication called protamine, which is essential to heart surgery.

“We came very close to having a shortage. Fortunately, we did come through with some stock. The company was able to get some,” said Bonnici.

Linda Vaillant of the Quebec Hospital Pharmacists' Association also recognizes that potential problems that could result from lacking medications.

She and her group are lobbying for the creation of an inventory that would help avoid such potential disasters.

“There's a number of drugs that are really critical and we believe that those drugs should be on a list and we should have a permanent inventory stocked somewhere in Quebec, so there's not a situation where a patient cannot get one of those drugs,” said Vaillant.

Health Canada, in a response issued to CTV Montreal, acknowledged the gravity of the issue.

“Health Canada continues to work with stakeholders to develop a rigorous and coordinated approach to prevent and address drug shortages to ensure that health care practitioners and other stakeholders across the drug supply chain have the information they need to make timely and informed decisions,” it wrote.