New partnership brings blood to critically injured patients via air ambulance on Vancouver Island

Trauma patients on Vancouver Island in need of life-saving blood transfusions will get the care they need faster now that air ambulance paramedics have full-time access to blood products from Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH).

Through a new partnership between Island Health and BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) blood products are now available at all times on the BCEHS ambulance helicopter located in Parksville. Prior to the program launch, pre-hospital blood was not available to critical care paramedic crews based on Vancouver Island and was only available through crews dispatched from Vancouver International Airport.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to blood transfusions to help save lives,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This new service means paramedics have access to crucial blood products around the clock, full-time, so they can continue providing high-quality critical care when every minute can make a difference in a life-saving situation on the Island.”  

“Having full-time access to blood products out of Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and storing them with our critical care paramedic crews will greatly improve our speed of delivery for isolated Vancouver Island communities, such as Bamfield, Tahsis or Port Renfrew,” said Kevin Lambert, Critical Care Paramedic and Paramedic Practice Educator for Vancouver Island. “We can arrive more quickly at a scene and start a transfusion much earlier while providing advanced care on the way to a trauma centre.” 

“The blood is prepared at NRGH by laboratory technologists and stored in special temperature-controlled, secure coolers,” said Dr. Jennifer Duncan, Medical Lead for Transfusion Medicine at Island Health. “Two units of blood are provided within the coolers and if they aren’t used within 4 days, the unopened secured coolers are returned to NRGH to prevent wastage, and two fresh units are provided.” 

“At BCEHS, we’re always looking for ways to improve pre-hospital emergency care for British Columbians, whether they’re in downtown Victoria or a remote Gulf Island,” says Dr. Mike Christian, Chief Medical Officer at BCEHS. “We’re so pleased to partner with Island Health on this innovative program that will allow our critical care paramedics to give trauma patients life-saving blood transfusions as quickly as possible when minutes and seconds count.”