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Ornge, Sunnybrook partner to launch Ontario's first 'Blood on Board' program

August 31, 2021

Ornge, Ontario’s provider of air ambulance and critical care transport services, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Canada’s largest trauma centre, are pleased to announce Ontario’s first air ambulance ‘Blood on Board’ program.

Beginning August 31, 2021 in Toronto, Ornge paramedics will be capable of carrying blood products from base directly to the scene of a traumatic injury by air and administering them to a patient. This will also result in more effective treatment for patients with gastrointestinal bleeding and post-partum hemorrhage at locations with few blood products available.

“For patients experiencing a life-threating injury or catastrophic hemorrhage, an emergency transfusion to replace lost blood can be life saving,” says Dr. Bruce Sawadsky, Chief Medical Officer for Ornge. “Research shows the faster that lost blood is restored with a transfusion, the better the patient outcome. This new program will lead to improved and faster access to blood products as a life-saving therapy.”

The Blood on Board pilot program is a collaborative initiative to supply blood in coolers for air medical transport by Ornge. The program was developed by Ornge and the Division of Transfusion Medicine & Tissue Bank (TMTB) at Sunnybrook, an academic health sciences centre fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and a Level 1 trauma centre.

The program is designed to meet the highest standards. Sunnybrook’s TMTB will supply Ornge with blood products on a twice-weekly basis in sealed coolers which are capable of both storing and transporting blood. These are equipped with temperature loggers to ensure the blood products remain at appropriate temperatures during the storage period and at the time of transfusion. Supply and administration will be tracked and monitored carefully.

“Launching Blood on Board has been a true team effort for everyone involved, from our partners at Ornge to the lab technologists in our blood bank,” says Dr. Yulia Lin, Division Head, Transfusion Medicine & Tissue Bank at Sunnybrook. “We look forward to helping other hospitals across the province join the program in the near future.”

While Blood on Board will be available initially at the Toronto helicopter base, the program is expected to be expanded to other Ornge air bases across Ontario in 2022.

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