A motion calling for defibrillators to be installed across Derry and Strabane is to be tabled at a council meeting later today.
SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins is expected to raise the matter at the full council’s monthly meeting in the Guildhall this afternoon.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Colr. Dobbins said she was hopeful of securing the backing of her council colleagues.
Colr. Dobbins will propose this afternoon “that this council notes that over 1,400 people suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in 2014; further notes that the current survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Northern Ireland is less than 10%; and calls on the council to increase the provision of defibrillators in public buildings and on council-owned grounds.”
The motion further calls on the council “to ensure that all defibrillators are registered with the Ambulance Service and any database that may be established in the future by the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
Speaking prior to the meeting, Colr Dobbins said: “Today motion goes to council and I would hope that it gets full party support.
“There is thought to be over 1,000 automated external defibrillator machines available outside of hospitals in Northern Ireland but to date there is no comprehensive record of who has an AED machine, where these machines are located, who has access to them or whether they are regularly maintained.
“The early use of CPR and defibrillators really can make the difference between life and death but it is estimated that the current survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Northern Ireland is only 7.5%. When a person suffers a cardiac arrest, time is of the essence.
“For every minute before defibrillation, the chance of survival drops by 10%. The chance of an ambulance arriving in less than eight minutes is very low. Research proves that, while waiting the arrival of paramedics, using a defibrillator in conjunction with CPR can increase the survival rate to over 70%.
“A simple argument to be made is that if the public are aware about the location of defibrillators, then they have the power to save lives in the event of an emergency.”
The ‘Community Resuscitation Strategy’ introduced by the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety aims to increase the survival rate of those who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
The strategy puts the onus of creating the register and detailing the whereabouts, maintenance and service of existing defibrillators as well as developing first responder schemes, on the Ambulance Service, a service which Colr Dobbins described as “already overworked and under resourced”.
“As a council we are better placed to create local registers,” she said, adding:
“There have been an increasing number of incidents in which young people suffer cardiac arrest. Councillors may note that a number of sporting organisations such as the GAA, IFA, IRFU and many more have drastically increased the number of defibrillators available at training sessions and matches.
“I know of one family who have a child with heart problems helped raise funds and donated a defibrillator to the local school with view that it is to be used for the whole community also.
“I also know that the North West Taxi Proprietors are part of an innovative first responder scheme providing immediate assistance to a casualty while ambulances make their way to the call to provide high quality clinical care to those in need.
“Charities such as Defibs 4 Kids are working to increase such provision in schools and we should aim to see defibrillators in our libraries, museums, community centres, churches and any other public places.
These efforts would be naturally complimented with an updated local, and map-based register accessible to the general public.
“Under government regulations, non-domestic properties must have annually maintained fire extinguishers on site and a fire exit policy. On average fire kills two people in Northern Ireland every year, compare that to 270 people who die daily from sudden cardiac arrest in Northern Ireland and the mainland Britain. Fire extinguishers are now commonplace. Why not defibrillators?”