From the soccer pitch to community recreation centres to schools, a sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. The person in cardiac arrest could be a colleague at the office, someone in a hockey arena, a stranger on the street, or a loved one at home. It strikes quickly and often without warning but access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) can dramatically increase the odds of surviving a cardiac arrest.
“Today I introduced legislation designed to save lives,” said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, in a news release. “Using an AED together with CPR is proven to save the life of someone having a cardiac arrest. Currently AEDs are in many public buildings, but they are not mandatory nor is maintenance and registration. Implementation of this bill would change that.”
Currently, only one in ten people will survive a cardiac arrest. Evidence shows that when CPR and AEDs are used together in the first few minutes during a sudden cardiac arrest, survival rates can be increased up to 75 per cent.
“I survived a cardiac arrest in January 2018 because a teammate knew CPR and there was a readily available AED at the rink where I was playing hockey,” said cardiac arrest survivor Jamie Maclaren. “I was clinically dead but thanks to my teammates who knew what to do, I’m able to return home to my wife and little boy,” Maclaren added.
Bond introduced a private members’ bill entitled the Defibrillator Public Access Act. Currently, public access to AEDs and their life-saving impact remains limited in scope due to barriers that exist at the community level – barriers that include unavailable AEDs where it is reasonable to expect one; unmaintained and uninspected AEDs; unregistered AEDs; and unclear Good Samaritan laws that do not explicitly provide civil liability protection.
“British Columbians do not have to die of cardiac arrest in a public place. Rapid access to defibrillation could mean the difference between life and death in a cardiac arrest situation,” said Mark Collison, Director at Heart & Stroke, B.C. & Yukon. “With more AEDs accessible throughout communities, it will become that much easier for British Columbians to follow the essential steps to save lives by calling 9-1-1, doing CPR and using an AED.”
Implementing this legislation would also require they be registered with BC Emergency Health Services’ AED registry. This registry is linked to the ambulance dispatch information system, and maps all the locations in the province where AEDs have been installed. When a bystander calls 9-1-1, the dispatcher will know if an AED is available at or near the location and will assist the bystander on how to use the AED. Dispatchers will also coach bystanders on how to do CPR.
While AEDs are now standard equipment on all provincial fleet ambulances, having the devices in high-traffic public places could support faster access to life-saving defibrillation before paramedics arrive.
“I’m proud this bill will support more tools that can be used to save lives,” said Bond. “Simply put, lives cannot be saved if AEDs don’t work or can’t be found, or if people are afraid to use one or businesses are afraid to lend theirs out. This is a major problem that legislative and regulatory measures can address. I want to express our appreciation and gratitude to paramedics and Heart & Stroke for their leadership and advocacy on improving public access to defibrillation in B.C.”