November 15, 2023 | Innovation, Medicine, Our Patients

Groundbreaking blood protocol launches in Manitoba

A photo of STARS Flight Nurse Melvin Yumang readying a Prehospital Transfusion bag while preparing the helicopter for a mission.

The field of critical care changes rapidly, so STARS must stay on the leading edge of new advances in technology and medicine that can lead to better outcomes for our patients. One of the most effective tools that STARS provides onboard is blood for critical patients. This summer, an innovative protocol that ensures patients have access to lifesaving blood products while being cared for by STARS, was introduced in Manitoba.

The Massive Hemorrhage Protocol (MHP) was initiated in Manitoba on June 30, 2023. It provides access to two new products that can help stop bleeding — one to reverse anticoagulation and the other to help blood clots form.

The protocol was first introduced in Saskatchewan in 2022 and is being used regularly to care for patients in that province.

“I think it’s the first of its kind in Manitoba,” noted Jennifer Fosty, a STARS flight nurse who helped lead the implementation of the protocol in partnership with Manitoba Shared Health.

STARS crews have brought blood along on missions since 2013. Initially, STARS stocked two units of type O negative blood. O negative is known as the ‘universal blood type,’ as it’s safe to be given to anyone — particularly helpful in a traumatic situation when a patient urgently needs blood and their blood type is unknown. Based on need, STARS increased onboard blood supply to four units in 2019.

The blood is carried in temperature controlled coolers, and if it’s not used within 72 hours it’s placed back in the blood supply to avoid any wastage. STARS then receives fresh blood for the crew to use on the next patient who needs it.

STARS works closely with Manitoba Shared Health’s Blood Bank at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre to ensure the MHP products are always on hand. The Blood Bank supplies STARS with MHP packages several times per week.

“If any products are used on a patient during transport, the Blood Bank is notified and quickly replenishes stock in order to have another MHP package in our hands, so that we’re ready for the next patient who may need it,” added Fosty.

It is another example of how STARS is a trusted partner in the delivery of critical care.

“STARS and the Blood Bank operate cohesively to ensure trauma patients are treated in a timely manner,” explained Nichole Bandura, laboratory supervisor for Hematology/Transfusion Medicine with Manitoba Shared Health. “STARS effectively communicates with the Blood Bank so both parties are prepared for the needs of incoming trauma patients. The rapid response of both STARS and the Blood Bank ensures the best care is provided to the patient.”

The partnership between STARS and the Blood Bank, driven by a spirit of innovation and a passion for finding new ways to save lives, has made a real difference for patients.

“It is so important for critical patients to have access to blood products during pre-hospital transport,” said STARS’ Fosty. “The Massive Hemorrhage Protocol will definitely improve patient outcomes.”

“Having an organized plan of action and effective communications skills makes STARS and the Blood Bank a successful team,” added Manitoba Shared Health’s Bandura. “This program has saved the lives of countless individuals, ensuring the healthcare needs are met for Manitobans in some of the most traumatic situations.”

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