First ‘Blood on Board' program for Northern Ontario to launch in spring
Published Monday, March 13, 2023
Ornge, Ontario’s provider of air ambulance and critical care transport services, and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) are pleased to announce northern Ontario’s first ‘Blood on Board’ program. Ornge paramedics will have blood on the aircraft, allowing crews to launch without delay bringing blood products with them to communities across the north by air and shortening time to administration to patients in need.
“We are pleased to work with our partners in bringing this life-saving therapy to the region,” says Dr. Homer Tien, President and CEO of Ornge. “This program will ensure trauma patients receive blood products quickly at a time when every minute counts, greatly enhancing pre-hospital capabilities within rural and remote communities.”
The collaboration between Ornge and TBRHSC is scheduled to launch in April 2023. The blood bank at TBRHSC will supply Ornge with blood products in specialized coolers designed for the storage and transport of blood. Blood temperatures are monitored carefully during storage and on board the aircraft up to the time of transfusion, ensuring the highest safety standards are met.
“We are committed to working with our regional partners in innovative ways, to ensure the people of Northwestern Ontario receive the best care possible, as soon as possible,” says Dr. Rhonda Crocker Ellacott, President and CEO of TBRHSC and CEO of Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute. “Having ‘Blood on Board’ available to provide a transfusion to patients in emergency situations can mean the difference between life and death.”
Ontario’s first Blood on Board program – a partnership between Ornge and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto – launched in 2021. More than 80 units of blood have been administered to over 50 patients since the launch of the program.
Hemorrhage is a leading cause of death in traumatically injured patients. Research shows that early blood transfusion can improve patient outcomes. Timely access to blood transfusion is particularly important for patients who face long transport times to definitive care.
“We have lost too many NAN community members to preventable deaths as a result of inequitable health services in the remote North, but acknowledge that medevacs are a lifeline for many of our underserviced communities,” says Deputy Chief Victor Linklater, Nishnawbe Aski Nation. “We welcome the long-awaited ability to finally have ‘Blood on Board’ on these aircraft, and know that this critical enhancement to service will undoubtedly save lives. Miigwetch to Ornge, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, and everyone involved for ensuring that this life-saving initiative is available to NAN communities.”
This program is one of a number of initiatives aimed at improving health equity in Northern Ontario communities. In April 2022, Ornge launched a one-year trial of a specialized transport team to perform mental health-related transports across the north. In December, the Government of Ontario announced the renewal of Ornge’s northern-based fixed wing aircraft fleet, involving the replacement of eight aircraft as they reach the conclusion of their operational life.
Ornge, a not-for-profit organization, co-ordinates all aspects of Ontario’s air ambulance system, the critical care land transport program and the authorization of air and land ambulance transfers between hospitals.