New York is last in country to let EMS aircrafts carry, administer blood in air

Regional News

Photo credit: Mercy Flight Central Facebook Page

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (WROC) — A bill has been signed into law in New York State allowing EMS aircrafts to carry, and distribute blood in the air. 

Advocates have been fighting for months to pass the legislation, co-sponsored by Senator Pam Helming. On Dec. 23 the bill was passed into law, making NYS the last state in the country to have the ability.

Erin Reese, program director with Mercy Flight Central in Canandaigua says sometimes it takes many miles to fly a patient to a trauma center. Even up to 45 minutes in rural areas.

She says about 40% of the patients they serve day in and day out, are trauma patients who need blood right away.

But for years, residents in New York State have had to rely only on salt water transfusions in the air, instead of actual blood.

“When you have a patient that has been traumatically injured, they need volume, giving them salt water is not the gold standard, they need blood products at that point,” said Reese. “The patients we transport are often a significant distance from a trauma center.”

But this new law is going to make things significantly easier for both patients and medics, she says.

“The bill was initially introduced two years ago,” she said. “Something many other programs have been doing, so certainly something we are excited and ready to start doing as well.”

The blood will be refrigerated on the aircraft, and monitored regularly for expiration.

Reese says a recent shortage of blood in our region is one concern moving forward. But she has faith this is something the community can step up and help with, as long as the word continues to get out.

“We’ll work with blood banks, the Red Cross and work to develop a relationship with those agencies.”

Reese says she’s hopeful this new law can only improve care for patients. Whether they’re in far out rural regions – or not. Every second counts.

Reese says Mercy Flight Central in Canandaigua is planning on hosting a blood drive soon to help with the shortage. Stay tuned with News 8 for more details, as they arise.

Full statement from Senator Helming on passage of bill S.4085A:

Senator Pam Helming announced that the bill (S.4085A) she co-sponsored authorizing air transport ambulance service providers, such as Mercy Flight Central, to administer blood transfusions to patients on helicopters has been signed into law.  

Senator Helming said, “With the signing of this bill, we have not only fixed an arcane state law and shown support for our dedicated air EMS providers, we have implemented a change that can potentially save lives. A blood transfusion can be the difference between life and death. In our rural areas, where residents may live far from the nearest trauma center or tertiary care center, it is especially important that trained air medical professionals be able to respond with the necessary resources to treat critically ill or traumatically injured patients. Thank you to Mercy Flight Central for advocating for this legislation and for their incredible service to our communities.” 

Prior to this law, New York was the only state in the nation that did not allow medical flight crews to carry or distribute blood during emergencies. 

“Mercy Flight Central is dedicated to excellence in the care that we provide and the legislation to allow air EMS to carry blood will have a direct and positive impact on our communities,” said Jeff Bartkoski, President and CEO of Mercy Flight Central. “In the past several years, we have transported many patients in hemorrhagic shock, most of which would have benefitted from the administration of blood products in the pre-hospital environment. The ability to carry and administer blood products while in flight is not only the next step to a higher level of pre-hospital medical care but it will improve outcomes and save lives of the patients that we serve. Thank you to Senator Helming and those who voted to pass this important legislation.” 

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