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ONE HAND TIED BEHIND OUR BACK

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By Air Methods

This op-ed is from five New York medical directors for LifeNet New York

New York currently does not allow air ambulances to carry and transfuse its own blood products. Recently, several medical directors from our LifeNet bases wrote an op-ed calling for the state legislature to change this law.

We write as the medical directors of LifeNet of New York to bring attention to a key medical issue for emergency patients in New York, impacting patients for decades without being corrected. Our service provides emergency critical care to patients across the state at a moment’s notice, an ICU-level care for the most critically ill and injured patients who require transport to tertiary or quaternary care facilities to treat their illness or injury. LifeNet of New York has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 health crisis, including transporting critical patients on ventilators from an overwhelmed facility in Queens to hospitals in Upstate New York and out of state, an endeavor documented in multiple news reports.

While we are proud of the medical care provided by LifeNet of New York, we are writing today to ask the New York State Legislature to authorize our service to carry and transfuse our own blood products to our patients that need these therapies. Air Methods treats patients in 48 states across the United States and New York is currently the only state where regulations do not allow our clinical team to monitor, store, and transfuse blood products. We must be able to use every health resource we have to treat our patients, but the State of New York has tied one hand behind our back.

When we are dispatched to transport a patient who requires a blood transfusion, LifeNet of New York’s ­­­­nurses and paramedics cannot deliver that care. Instead, we must rely on the sending facility to have enough blood to transfuse the patient before transport, which is not often the case in the small rural hospitals to which we respond. Our service already has a national contract in place with the American Red Cross to carry two units of universal packed red blood cells on every helicopter and where available, plasma as well. This is more than some small rural hospitals in New York have in reserves at any given time, yet we are prohibited from using these resources in New York.

Moreover, when we transport trauma patients from the scene of injury, we do not have our own blood and plasma to transfuse to these patients as they are bleeding to death. The only medical treatment that the State of New York will currently allow our flight nurses and paramedics to keep readily available to patients in hemorrhagic shock is salt water, either normal saline or lactated Ringers. These fluids are no substitute for blood products because they do not stop bleeding or carry oxygen. Instead, these fluids dilute the bloodstream, worsening patient outcomes.

There is a tangible human cost to the outdated statutes in New York. Our flight nurses and paramedics chose their profession because they want to save lives, not watch patients bleed to death receiving salt water instead of blood products because their hands are tied by outdated state regulations. Across our state borders, LifeNet of New York’s sister air medical programs are able to store and provide blood products as a readily available resource. We at LifeNet of New York ask that our state government gives New Yorkers the same chance for survival that New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Connecticut authorize for their residents.

We would like to thank Senator Metzger for her leadership on this critical health issue for patients in New York, by sponsoring S. 8346. We ask the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo to support this common sense issue now and update the outdated state statutes that unnecessarily put New Yorkers at a disadvantage.

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Dr. David FE Stuhlmiller, MD FACEP FAEMS CMTE
Physician Advisor and Medical Director
LifeNet of New York
(973) 879-9053
[email protected]

Dr. Stephen Hassett MD FACEP
Associate Professor Emergency Medicine
Albany Medical Center
Physician Medical Director
LifeNet of New York
[email protected]

Dr. Beth Linkenheil, DO FACEP
Chief of Emergency Medicine
Director of Emergency Medical Services
Guthrie Health System
Physician Medical Director
LifeNet of New York
[email protected]

Dr. Luke Duncan, MD
Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine
Associate Professor of Surgical Critical Care
Albany Medical Center
Physician Medical Director
LifeNet of New York
[email protected]

Dr. Maja Lundborg-Gray, MD, FAAEM, FACEP
Physician Medical Director
LifeNet of New York
Fort Drum, Potsdam, Seneca Falls, Watertown bases