VANCOUVER - A partnership between government of British Columbia and the Heart & Stroke Foundation will provide $2 million to increase public access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs), helping to save the lives of victims of sudden cardiac arrest.
"Each year, more than 2,000 British Columbians die from sudden cardiac arrest," said Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid. "These people are someone's father, mother, husband, wife, son or daughter, friend or loved one. By increasing public access to defibrillators, we can help to save many of those lives."
The Ministry of Health and the Heart & Stroke Foundation are each contributing $1 million to the program.
The partnership will support the installation of 450 AEDs in a variety of public venues throughout B.C. over the next two years, including community centres, arenas, recreation centres, playing fields and sports centres.
The venues are areas where large numbers regularly gather and where the chances of an individual experiencing sudden cardiac arrest could be elevated.
"We're placing AEDs where there is the greatest chance they'll save a life," said Diego Marchese, CEO, BC & Yukon, Heart and Stroke Foundation. "Through this comprehensive program, we will donate 450 AEDs to public places across the province, and give people the support they need if they see someone suffer a sudden cardiac arrest."
The current survival rate for an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest is only about five per cent. Evidence shows that survival rates can be increased up to 75 per cent if a defibrillator is used within five minutes; however, access to defibrillators is currently limited.
An AED is a safe, portable device anyone can use to deliver an electric shock to restart a heart in sudden cardiac arrest. The AED reads the heart rhythm and only delivers a shock if needed.
"Each year, our paramedics and dispatchers provide assistance for hundreds of cardiac arrest patients," said Les Fisher, chief operating officer, BC Ambulance Service. "We know first-hand the positive impact an AED can have for a patient. Simply put, they save lives."
The program is a partnership with the BC Ambulance Service, which will support the venues receiving an AED by providing orientation for staff on how to correctly use and maintain the devices. BC Ambulance Service will also compile a registry linked to the ambulance dispatch information system, which will map all of the locations in the province where AEDs have been installed. When a bystander calls 9-1-1 for an ambulance, the dispatcher will know if an AED is available at the location, and will assist the bystander to use the AED on the cardiac arrest patient. The registry will be active by the end of February 2013.
To support the program, the foundation is launching a provincewide public awareness and education campaign in February to help citizens recognize the signs of sudden cardiac arrest and to respond by calling 9-1-1, doing CPR and using an AED.
Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, stopping blood from flowing to the brain or other vital organs. Without immediate help, a victim of sudden cardiac arrest will suffer brain damage within three minutes. After 12 minutes, survival is unlikely.
For more information on the PAD Program, AEDs, or sudden cardiac arrest visit: www.BCPADProgram.ca
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)
Director, Marketing and Communications
BC & Yukon, Heart & Stroke Foundation
BC Ambulance Service