Nova Scotia

Air ambulances in Nova Scotia now carry supply of blood

LifeFlight crews in Nova Scotia now have a supply of blood on hand for every emergency mission they fly.

New program will eliminate the need to stop en route to emergencies

Paramedic Chris Renaud holds a blood cooler. (EHS LifeFlight)

People who are seriously hurt or ill enough to need an air ambulance to take them to hospital will now have a blood supply en route.

Emergency crews on board have administered liquids and sometimes performed transfusions, but blood has not been available routinely on LifeFlights until a week ago.

On June 8, the air ambulance service that provides care to people who live in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island started carrying two units of O negative blood on all flights.

Colin Flynn, senior manager of EHS LifeFlight, said having blood as part of standard emergency supplies will eliminate the need to request blood at hospitals in Halifax or New Glasgow and then stop to pick it up.

"We would have to weigh out what is most important for the patient, if it was speed of transport to the trauma team in Halifax," he said. "Our doctors would help us make those decisions to determine if we should stop and pick up blood products."

Might save lives

Flynn said having immediate access to blood might save lives.

"We do transport the sickest of the sick in the province because we transport critically ill patients every day," he said.

"The patients sometimes deteriorate. Sometimes there's unpredicted issues and the ability of our crew to react quickly to changing conditions within our patient population will definitely improve outcomes."

O negative is considered the universal blood type and is widely used in emergencies when blood type might not be known.

The blood units will be regularly rotated so that crews have the freshest available. Unused blood will put back into the regular blood supply to be used at hospitals and clinics.