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Pittsburgh EMS expands whole blood program to include response units, paramedics

Expansion of the pilot program also allows paramedics to administer whole blood

By Bill Carey

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Bureau of EMS is expanding its whole blood pilot program it initiated in 2023. Recent updates to prehospital protocol guidelines by the state Department of Health now allow EMS units to carry and administer whole blood.

Two University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals will provide paramedics with the blood supply, TribLIVE reported.

“Before this protocol, Pennsylvania’s air ambulances and some physician response vehicles were providing field blood,” Pennsylvania Department of Health Press Secretary Mark O’Neill said. “Ultimately, additional lives could be saved when paramedics have access to whole blood and the ability to administer whole blood during emergency responses or in transport to a hospital.”

One of the service’s two rescue-unit ambulances will be equipped with a military-grade cooler to store blood during shifts. The cooler’s battery can maintain the necessary cool temperature for up to 72 hours in case of power loss. A grant facilitated the purchase of the $10,000 cooler.

Last year, physicians were required to administer blood at emergency scenes. Starting this summer, a select group of 24 paramedics undergoing training will routinely carry blood in their ambulances.