Manitoba

STARS air ambulance brings blood on board for emergency transfusions

Medical staff on STARS air ambulance will no longer have to make time-consuming pit stops at hospitals or blood banks to pick up blood as part of their emergency response.

On-board 'Bethune Box' to keep pints of blood chilled en route to emergency scenes

STARS air ambulance will now have blood on board for emergency transfusions. (CBC)

Medical staff on STARS air ambulance will no longer have to make time-consuming pit stops at hospitals or blood banks to pick up blood as part of their emergency response.

STARS helicopters are regularly dispatched to remote or hard-to-reach areas when there's a serious crash or another health emergency to scoop up patients and take them to a hospital.

Previously, officials had to stop and pick up pints of blood en route to a call, but with the launch of STARS' "Blood on Board" program Tuesday, that detour will no longer be necessary.

"For the critically injured, blood can make the difference between life and death," Dr. Doug Martin, transport physician and medical director for STARS in Manitoba, said in a statement Tuesday.

"Bringing blood transfusion to the patient at the roadside is a game-changing treatment that very few other services in North America provide."

The onboard blood cooler has been dubbed the "Bethune Box" after former Canadian surgeon Dr. Norman Bethune, who created the first blood collection and distribution service during the Spanish Civil War, STARS said.

A 'Bethune Box' will keep the blood chilled aboard STARS flights. (cbc)

The unit pumped blood into soldiers on the front, saving an estimated 300 to 400 lives.

Pints of O-negative blood, which can be donated to patients of all blood types, will be stored in the box in the helicopter. If it isn't used in 72 hours, the blood will be shipped back to the blood bank to be used by other patients.

"Access to blood in-transit will give the STARS flight team one more tool to use when they respond to scene calls and during patient transport," the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Dr. Rob Grierson, chief medical officer with emergency response and patient transport, said in a statement.

"Being able to provide this service to Manitobans is another example of the strong partnership we have with STARS, Diagnostic Services Manitoba and Canadian Blood Services."

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