This important legislation will allow air transport ambulance service providers to store and distribute blood at all their facilities and initiate and administer transfusions while providing air transport services.
“On behalf of all of our crewmembers serving the State of New York and the patients we will be called to treat, we thank the cosponsors and supporters of this bill for their months of dedicated leadership on this critical issue,” said JaeLynn Williams, CEO of Air Methods.
“This law will save the lives of countless New Yorkers and we are grateful to the New York legislature for allowing us to provide this important care to our patients.”
Air medical crews in New York are currently prohibited from initiating a blood transfusion from blood stores at their base, because outdated state regulations required these services to operate as blood bank distribution centers. New York is the only state in the nation with a law like this on the books, which effectively prohibits air medical crews from providing blood transfusions despite providing the highest level of medical care in-transport as critical care services.
Blood transfusions while in transport
“Our crewmembers work in air medical to save lives, but their hands have been tied while providing care to patients in New York that needed blood transfusions while in transport,” said Air Methods Chief Nursing Officer Stephanie Queen, PhD. “Our patient transport data shows that over the last several years lives have been lost as a result of this outdated law in New York; passing S. 4085/A. 2561 was the right thing to do for New Yorkers.”
After two years of working with the New York Department of Health and the legislature this regulatory correction was necessary to bring New York up to the standards of the rest of the nation. The issue has gained traction in 2021 when after a farming accident, a LifeNet of New York aircraft was dispatched but not available, so the patient had to be transported by Guthrie Air from Sayre, Pennsylvania. This neighboring state allows the transporting of blood and allows blood transfusions during flight. The patient lost both of his legs, but the blood transfusion was absolutely necessary to save his life after experiencing such high-acuity trauma. This was only possible because the care was provided by a Pennsylvania-based aircraft, not one from New York.
Because air ambulance services, like LifeNet, often partner with the Red Cross in other states, they frequently have access to more blood products on-site than a small hospital. This new law will help air ambulances to not deplete the rural hospital blood supply at all and to actually improve it by donating unused blood products to local health systems to be used before they expire.
“New York patients in upstate and rural New York remain at a disadvantage until this law is implemented, but we are prepared to take action the moment we are allowed to provide this care. Including more than $100,000 of equipment at the ready at our ten New York bases with our clinicians trained and ready to comply with all of the regulatory and accreditation requirements,” said Queen. “We have also confirmed with our national blood supply partner, the Red Cross, that we will be able to distribute human blood products at our New York bases starting mid-Summer if the law is implemented by then.”
Air Methods and LifeNet of New York hope that Governor Andrew Cuomo will sign the bill into law quickly. The bill will go into effect immediately upon being signed, which means Air Methods can utilize the infrastructure they are building in New York state to provide blood transfusions in-flight as quickly as possible under the new law.
“We are counting the days until this is signed because we can’t bear to see any more trauma patients put at an increased medical risk unnecessarily in New York,” said Williams. “Thank you again to the New York legislators for all their support and we look forward to Governor Cuomo signing the bill to allow our incredible clinical teams to do what they do best—save lives.”
About Air Methods: Air Methods is the leading air medical service, delivering lifesaving care to more than 70,000 people every year. With nearly 40 years of air medical experience, Air Methods is the preferred partner for hospitals and one of the largest community-based providers of air medical services. United Rotorcraft is the Company’s products division specializing in the design and manufacture of aeromedical and aerospace technology. Air Methods’ fleet of owned, leased or maintained aircraft features more than 450 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.