11/06/2013 05:32 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Regina air ambulance to stock blood on board for early transfusions

REGINA - Regina's STARS helicopter ambulance says it has become the first air medical service in Canada to stock blood on flights for potentially life-saving transfusions.

The policy was spearheaded by Regina General Hospital's transfusion lab staff.

STARS says having blood on board allows crews to start blood transfusions early so that critically ill patients can be stabilized before arriving at a trauma centre.

Two units of blood from the transfusion lab will be carried in an insulated thermal cooler.

Any blood not used within 72 hours will be returned to the hospital, inspected and made available to other patients.

Rural Health Minister Randy Weekes says in a release that the practice will improve the effectiveness of emergency care for patients outside urban centres.

“There are very few helicopter EMS services in North America that do this,” STARS spokesman Darcy McKay said in the release Wednesday. “Having access to blood as part of pre-hospital care eliminates the delay of having to stop at a hospital during the flight, as we’ve done in the past. This is a true life-saving measure.”

STARS is currently working with the Saskatoon Health Region on a similar policy.