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Save Lives by Fixing Defibrillator Policy

6th Dec 2014

Save Lives by Fixing Defibrillator Policy

To kick off EMS Week 2013, Member of Parliament Ralph Goodale highlighted his Private Members Motion M-446, which calls for the federal government to fix its wildly inconsistent policies on live-saving defibrillators.

35,000 to 40,000 Canadians die of sudden cardiac arrest every year, and defibrillators increase survival rates by up to 30 percent if used in the first few minutes.

“Many departments and agencies in the federal government recognize that defibrillators save lives, yet just as many do not. It is time for the government to update its policy and become a role model by deploying defibrillators in all its buildings,” Goodale said.

“Paramedics have known for years that defibrillators are one of the most cost-effective ways to save lives. Having quick access to them is crucial to beating the odds of surviving cardiac arrest, which worsen by 7 to 10% for every minute of delay in defibrillation,” he added.

Information obtained by Goodale revealed that 36 federal departments and agencies do not have a single defibrillator, including Health Canada and Public Safety Canada. The RCMP does not know how many it has deployed and Public Works and Government Services Canada, which manages federal buildings, has no information on how many it possesses.

“The Paramedic Chiefs of Canada commend the introduction of this measure and Mr. Goodale's proposal of this motion. We encourage parliamentarian support of introducing this important life-saving measure and encourage that it be taken one step further,” said Darren Sandbeck, President of the Paramedic Chiefs of Canada. “We strongly support the initiative that every public building in the country have an automated external defibrillator with trained staff responders.”

Public Access DefibrillatorFrequently Asked Questions

What is the impact of cardiac arrest on Canadians?

Every year 35,000 to 40,000 Canadians die of sudden cardiac arrest—the sudden an unexpected loss of heart function.

Any location that has 1000 adults over the age of 35 present per day during normal business hours can expect 1 incident of sudden cardiac arrest every 5 years.

What is a defibrillator?

An automatic external defibrillator (AED) is an electronic device used to identify cardiac rhythms and to deliver a shock to correct abnormal electrical activity in the heart.

Who can use a defibrillator?

Modern AEDs are safe, easy to use and can be used by trained medical and non-medical individuals.

More than 1.5 million Canadians who take CPR courses annually are exposed to or trained in how to use an AED.

Why should defibrillators be easily available?

Defibrillation improves survival rates of sudden cardiac arrest by up to 30 per cent if delivered in the first few minutes. For every minute delay in defibrillation, the survival rate of a cardiac arrest victim decreases by 7 to 10%. After more than 12 minutes of ventricular fibrillation, the survival rate of adults is less than 5%.

Making defibrillators easily accessible could save thousands of lives every year.

How much does a defibrillator cost?

Defibrillators acquired by the federal government generally cost $1000-$2000.

What is the federal government's current policy on defibrillators?

Individual departments currently determine if they will have and use defibrillators. This has led to widely divergent practices, with some departments adopting modern, progressive policies requiring them and others outright opposing them.

Instead of being a leader and role model in using defibrillators to save lives, the federal government is inconsistent.

Where are defibrillators used in the federal government?

The RCMP is not able to provide details on their use; however, it has approved the use of defibrillators for several purposes, and in British Columbia they are required for rural officers with tasers and for on-road patrol supervisors.

Public Works and Government Services Canada, which manages federal buildings, has “has no information” about how many defibrillators it possesses.

Departments/agencies with defibrillators deployed include:

AANDC, Agriculture, CFIA, Farm Credit Canada, CBC, CRA, Enterprise Cape Breton, Canadian Council for the Arts, Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian Museum of Nature, National Arts Centre, National Gallery of Canada, Public Service Commission, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Environment Canada, Finance, Office of the Supervisor of Financial Institutions, Bank of Canada, CDIC, Royal Canadian Mint, Fisheries and Oceans, Passport Canada, IDRC, NCC, Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, HRSDC, CIRB. CEIFB, CMHC, Industry Canada, Canadian Space Agency, NSERC, SSHRC, Standards Council of Canada, EDC, CCC, Justice, Prosecution Service of Canada, Department of Defence and the Canadian Forces ( the majority are at health clinics, dentals clinics and ambulances), Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat, CSIS, Correction Services Canada, Parole Board of Canada, Canada Lands Company, Defence Construction Canada, Old Port of Montreal Corporation, Park Downsview Parc, Canadian Transport Agency, Transport Canada, VIA Rail, Atlantic Pilotage Authority, Canada Post, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, Laurentian Pilotage Authority, Marine Atlantic, Pacific Pilotage Authority, Ridley Terminals, Infrastructure Canada (through the owner of their building), Public Sector Pension Investment Board, Veterans Affairs Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada.

Departments/agencies with no units include:

Canadian Grain Commission, Farm Products Council of Canada, ACOA, Canadian Museum of Immigration, CRTC, Library and Archives Canada, National Film Board, Telefilm Canada, Canadian Heritage, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, embassies abroad, CIDA, Health Canada, CanNor, Status of Women Canada, Competition Tribunal, Copyright Board, NRC, BDC, Tourism Commission, FedDev Ontario, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Privy Council Office, Transportation Safety Board, Public Safety Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Shared Services Canada, Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada, Federal Bridge Corporation, Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, Treasury Board Secretariat, Canada School of Public Service, Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Source: May 2013