Lawmakers Work to Advance Lifesaving Air Ambulance Legislation

Albany, New York – Today, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (AD-123) joined Senator Michelle Hinchey (SD-46), Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (AD-113), Assemblyman John T. McDonald III (AD-108) , LifeNet of New York, and emergency personnel at the Albany Medical Center Helipad to rally support for legislation (S4085-Hinchey/A2561-Woerner). This bill would allow air ambulance services to store and distribute blood products to patients throughout the state. Lupardo is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The legislation would update New York State statute to allow air ambulance crews to store and distribute human blood products at their base, correcting outdated current statutes that require them to function and be regulated as a blood bank.

Because air ambulance services, like LifeNet, often partner with the American Red Cross in other states, they frequently have access to more blood products on-site than a small hospital can. This legislation will help air ambulances to not deplete the rural hospital blood supply. Additionally, air medical teams will donate unused blood products to local health systems to be used before they expire, thereby helping to expand access to needed resources.

Legislators stressed that A.2561 and S.4085 are critical for rural and upstate New York, and that every day the state delays puts lives in unnecessary danger.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo: “I learned about this legislation after a local farming accident where a man nearly lost his life. Luckily, for him, he was close enough to the state border that a medical chopper from Pennsylvania responded with blood on board. New York has outdated laws that restrict air transport ambulances from storing and distributing blood. It’s long past time for this to change and I strongly encourage my colleagues to support and pass this bill."

“Right now, if a person in New York experiences a severe illness or injury such as a life-threatening car accident they can’t receive a transfusion until they arrive at a hospital. In cases severe enough to require helicopter transport to a medical facility it makes sense to allow a transfusion in what could be a lifesaving window of time. When minutes matter, seconds can make a difference,” Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner said.

Sen. Michelle Hinchey: "When a local farmer in Chenango County suffered a horrible accident on his farm, it was a blood transfusion provided by a Pennsylvania-based medical helicopter that saved his life. That’s because New York is the only state in the country that does not allow medical helicopters to carry and transfuse blood, despite the fact that our air ambulance crews are trained to perform this life-saving care,” said Senator Michelle Hinchey. “In a medical emergency that requires air transport, access to a blood transfusion can mean the difference between life and death, especially for residents in rural and upstate communities and visitors to our wilderness areas. For the safety of all New Yorkers, we need to reverse this dangerous statute by passing our bill with Assemblymember Carrie Woerner immediately and giving our first responders the tools they need to continue to save lives.”

Assemblymember John McDonald said, "Thank you to Assemblymember Woerner for spearheading this effort that is going to help lifesaving blood products be stored and transferred to where it is needed the most. As we know there have been blood shortages especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and I am glad to support any effort to preserve these blood products that will save lives."

Dr. Luke Duncan, Medical Director for LifeNet of New York, Emergency Medicine and ICU physician at Albany Medical Center, praised the legislators’ initiative.“On behalf of LifeNet of New York, I wish to thank the cosponsors of this legislation for their steadfast support on a bill that will permit aeromedical crews to provide lifesaving, standard-of-care therapy for New York patients as soon as it is implemented. LifeNet NY treats patients every week in the state of New York that could have benefited from being able to receive a blood transfusion as part of their care administered by our air ambulance crews.” Dr. Duncan adds, “As a physician caring for these patients at the busiest trauma center in the state, I know that this legislation will save lives and is absolutely necessary for continuity of critical care to the receiving facility in New York.”

Dr. Michael Dailey, Regional EMS Medical Director said, “When I was a flight physician in Pennsylvania over 20 years ago we carried blood to administer to our critical patients. The citizens of New York deserve no less. As an emergency medical services physician and the regional EMS medical director for the REMO region surrounding Albany, I applaud the efforts of the cosponsors of this bill to allow helicopter ambulance agencies to carry and administer blood products. Allowing EMS to starting replacement of blood for patients in hemorrhagic shock will be lifesaving. The impact of transfusions has already been felt by some of our rural patients, some through aircraft based out of state, and some by blood brought to the scene for EMS response physicians. This bill is a huge step towards bringing this important intervention consistently to the patients across the state.”

S. 4085 is moving toward third and final reading in the New York Senate, while A. 2561 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Health.