Legislation would allow Air EMS to store and distribute blood, ‘This is absolutely feasible’

State Legislature

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (WROC) — New York is one of the only states that doesn’t allow Air EMS to carry and distribute blood – while in the air.

Lawmakers are pushing to pass a bill that would change this. According to the New York State Senate website, the bill, “authorizes air transport ambulance service providers to store and distribute human blood at all their facilities and distribute human blood while providing air transport services.”

Advocates for the legislation say seconds matter when it comes to these life-saving measures.

Erin Reese is the program director for Mercy Flight Central in Canandaigua. She says flight crews are on call 24/7 for any medical or trauma-related incident on ground.

“In the event there is an accident or medical situation, we transport both patients from accident scenes, from smaller community hospitals to larger centers,” said Reese.

A call can be anything from stroke, respiratory issue, or car accidents. For calls where blood loss is a major issue, it’s a fight against the clock — especially in rural areas.

“One of the most common causes of death for those 45 and older is uncontrolled bleeding,” said Reese. “When you’re miles from a trauma center, it’s life or death,” she said.

Dr. Michael Vella works in the trauma units with the University of Rochester Medical Center and is advocating for this legislation.

Dr. Vella says after coming to New York a few years ago, he was shocked to see that the state doesn’t have this system in place.

“Salt water is what they’re getting on helicopters, I want to emphasize this is not fault of nurses and paramedics,” he said.

He says what patients need is blood – and the sooner they get it – the more likely they will survive.

“It [salt water] doesn’t have red blood cells, platelets, and we know that those things are important for patients when bleeding,” said Dr. Vella.

Dr. Vella says this won’t all change overnight, but says something has to change soon.

“I get it there are barriers, financial challenges, things that need to be worked though…But I think that with the right cooperation and some changes in legislature this is something absolutely feasible,” he says.

“My personal experience, as well as others in other states, and I believe LifeNet contracts out to 48 other states – it’s feasible. 48 other states are doing this, so it’s logistical, it’s safe and financially feasible.”

The bill is in assembly committee – and has sponsorship from local Sen. Pam Helming.

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