Patients in need of life-saving blood transfusions will be able to get the care they need faster now that air ambulance paramedics in the Interior have full-time access to blood products from Royal Inland Hospital (RIH).
Thanks to the new partnership between Interior Health and BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), blood products are always available on the BCEHS ambulance helicopter located in Kamloops. Emergency re-supply of blood products for the air ambulance is also be available from Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) if needed, as trauma patients are often transferred to that hospital.
Pre-hospital blood was previously only available to critical care paramedics dispatched from Vancouver International Area and from Parksville on Vancouver Island.
“It is going to be a game changer for the people we serve,” says Brian Reichert , critical care paramedic and acting chief of Station 370. “We cover a large area with a lot of boat traffic, ATVs, motorcyles, and other vehicles on our highways. For us to have a blood product for someone who has suffered an incident, will buy us the time we need to get them to hospital and into surgery to get the help they need.”
Reichert points out that traumatic injuries account for most cases in which blood transfusions are needed, but there are also some medical conditions which can result in significant blood loss and this will program also help those patients get the care they need.
Critical care paramedics have already used blood on board the air ambulance in responding to at least one motor vehicle incident in the Interior this summer.
The blood is prepared by Transfusion Medical Services at Royal Inland Hospital. It is couriered to the station and stored in a special fridge. When the helicopter is called out, the blood is carried on board in a special temperature-controlled, secure cooler, in case it is needed. Twice a week, the station is re-supplied with two fresh units of blood. If the blood is unused, it is returned to the hospital to prevent wastage, says Reichert.
“At BCEHS, we’re always looking for ways to improve pre-hospital emergency care for British Columbians, whether they’re in Kamloops or in the Kootenays,” says Dr. Mike Christian, Chief Medical Officer at BCEHS. “We’re so pleased to partner with Interior Health on this innovative program that will allow our critical care paramedics to give patients life-saving blood transfusions as quickly as possible when minutes and seconds count.”