Trauma patients who require blood transfusions on air ambulances will now have timelier access to blood products and improved medical outcomes, thanks to a new program announced today.
“When patients require an emergency blood transfusion their condition is critical and time is of the essence,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “This new program is a first in B.C. and means paramedics will now fly directly to the patient with blood on board and start providing this life-saving care sooner.”
Trauma patients requiring blood transfusions during air ambulance transports from smaller health care facilities often need more or different types of blood products than are available at local hospitals. This new program, launched by BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) and Vancouver Coastal Health Transfusion Medicine Services, allows for blood products to now travel directly on air ambulances right from takeoff. The blood is picked up by a ground ambulance from the main blood bank at Vancouver General Hospital and stored in a specialized cooler onboard the air ambulance during the flight.
“We know that the sooner patients receive blood products, the better the chance of a positive medical outcome,” said Dr. Erik Vu, Vancouver Coastal Health physician and BCAS critical care paramedic. “This new program ensures patients will receive life-saving blood transfusions with the required blood products faster and arrive at a tertiary centre sooner.”
BCAS critical care paramedics, who provide care to patients from all areas of the province, found there was a need to improve access to blood products for patients in rural and remote locations. Previously, when an air ambulance transport request from a small facility was received, paramedics would have to stop at another health care facility to pick up required blood products, and then continue travelling to the patient.
“Critical care paramedic teams see first-hand the dedication of local health professional in rural and remote areas, as well as the logistical challenges that come with providing care in these communities,” said BCAS critical care paramedic Kalani Polson. “I’m proud to be part of an initiative that strengthens our link with patients in rural and remote B.C.”
BCAS’s Critical Care Transport Program is the second busiest in North America. Last year, critical care paramedics transported 8,600 patients throughout B.C. using both ground and air ambulances.