Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the $10-million initiative in Saskatoon on Thursday. Working in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the federal government will provide funding to equip 1,500 arenas across the country with AEDs, as well as training rink staff to use the devices.
Parkland Ambulance director of public affairs Lyle Karasiuk, who also serves as the public access to defibrillation co-ordinator for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, praised the government’s proposal.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” he said. “I think that this is a very good move as a starting point.
“Is there more work to be done on placement of AEDs and can we have more folks fund them? Absolutely. But as a starting point, I think this is a fantastic move on the part of both the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the government to provide AED equipment in areas where it’s needed.”
Such areas include a wide range of venues -- encompassing any location where large numbers of people gather, such as arenas, schools, churches and theatres.
When determining the risk for each facility, the health region examines a number of factors, such as whether a previous cardiac arrest occurred there, how many people attend typical functions, how many days per year the facility is open, whether they have neighbours, the degree of isolation and relative proximity to paramedics.
The biggest concentration of AEDs in Prince Albert is at the Art Hauser Centre, largely due to WHL rules obliging teams to have defibrillators. However, league players aren’t the only ones at risk on the ice.
“I call them weekend warriors … the guys who are between 35 and 50 who want to play hockey one night a week,” Karasiuk said.
“They get together with their buddies … Maybe they play in an organized league or they just round up some guys to play on a night. Those are typically the people who are more (at risk) because of lifestyle …
“They’re not traditionally going to the gym regularly. They’re not traditionally cycling regularly, in other words getting regular exercise. So when they go out and play hockey for that one night, they’re typically not in the best of shape, and therefore a likely candidate for a cardiac arrest.
“Now, could it happen somewhere else? Sure, it could. It could happen while they’re shovelling snow in their own driveway, for example. But because they’re in a public facility and there are more of them, the chances therefore increase exponentially. And so … with research from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the government of Canada has determined that this is a good move, and I think it’s a great move.”
Although Karasiuk expressed concern for older residents at risk of cardiac arrest, he stressed that risk factors are not restricted to those of more advanced age.
“That’s actually a misnomer,” he said, adding, “It all goes (back to) risk factors. We are seeing more and more younger people -- by that I mean as young as 25, 30 years old -- in our community having heart-related problems. That goes to lifestyle, it goes to diet, it goes to a whole lot of risk factors or even family history.
“As we age, the risk factors just multiply. So the more advantages that we can make to train people in CPR, to educate people about healthy lifestyles, and if we can support them by placing automated external defibrillators in a public place that’s accessible to them, we can now improve their survivability so that if they have a cardiac arrest at 40 years old -- and that has happened -- they’re going to survive.
“We’re going to give them the best opportunity to survive.”
Many local facilities such as Marion Aquatics have multiple AEDs onsite, since in situations involving cardiac arrest, the proximity of a defibrillator can be a matter of life and death.
I think it’s phenomenal. I think that this is a very good move as a starting point. - Lyle Karasiuk
Ideally, an AED device should be one to three minutes’ walking distance from anywhere within a facility. Karasiuk repeatedly pointed out that for every extra minute that a person lies without a pulse, CPR or defibrillation device, their chances of survival decrease by 10 per cent.
“We now know that if all of us stood around and just watched this person and waited the five minutes or 10 minutes or whatever (for) the paramedics to get in the door, we know that they’re going to not have a positive outcome,” he said.
“We know that we can make almost a 75 per cent difference in their positive outcome with early activation, early CPR, early use of an AED. So that’s a phenomenal success rate.”
Specific arrangements of the partnership between the federal government and Heart and Stroke Foundations have yet to be announced, but Karasiuk expected the foundation to release more information regarding necessary criteria.
For the moment, Karasiuk is the person to talk to for any owners of P.A.-area facilities who wish to equip their buildings with AED devices. He encourages interested organizations to call him at 953-8358 for a personalized consultation on whether an AED would suit them so they can make an informed decision.
“Maybe it doesn’t make sense for that organization to have a defibrillator onsite … for various factors,” Karasiuk said. “It’s an individual decision, and so I need to explain to sites: Here’s what it costs, here’s what it can do for your facility, here’s what the training is, here’s what the long-term commitment is.
“It’s not just as simple as buying it, putting it on the wall and having it there. That’s only one small piece of the puzzle. There’s the ongoing support to making that device functional for the health and safety of the workplace.”