Defibrillators would be mandatory in all public buildings – including schools and universities, libraries, sporting facilities, local council offices and swimming pools – which the public has access to under Australian-first legislation introduced today by SA-BEST.
Under a Private Member’s Bill being introduced by SA-BEST MLC and Treasury and Budget spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, privately owned buildings – including shopping centres, aged care and retirement villages, commercial properties over 600 square metres in size, and certain residential apartments – would also be required to install Automated External Defibrillators (AED).
Frank’s Automated External Defibrillators (Public Access) Bill 2019 will also make it mandatory for the life-saving devices to be installed in all emergency services vehicles, including SAPOL, the Metropolitan Fire Service, Country Fire Service and State Emergency Service.
A maximum fine of up to $20,000 would be imposed on those who failed to abide by the new laws, if passed by State Parliament.
“What value do we put on a life? Automated external defibrillators sell for about $1600 each – a small price for government and the private sector to pay to potentially save lives,” Frank said.
“The statistics not only speak for themselves but also paint a very disturbing, deadly picture,” he said.
“More than 30,000 people suffer cardiac arrest in Australia each year – but only one in 10 survive according to the Council of Ambulance Authorities.
“Worse still, the survival rate for a cardiac arrest outside of hospital is only about 10%.
“It is an indisputable fact the availability of an AED dramatically improves a person’s chance of survival to 70%.
“For every minute that defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival decreases by 10 percent.
“It has been proven around the world that AED save lives – this Bill will ensure more lives are saved as more defibrillators will be available in the community.”
Frank was prompted to introduce the legislation after a plea by St Johns Ambulance and the We Are Australian Hearts organisation to ensure that all South Australians are within three minutes of an AED.
He said the Victorian Government has rolled out 1400 new defibrillators to community organisations in recent years – something that has dramatically increased the number of people who have been defibrillated after suffering cardiac arrests outside of a hospital.
In Victoria, at least two lives a week are saved by the use of AED’s in public locations, while in Singapore it is mandatory for AEDs to be fitted in taxis.
Yet Frank said he was surprised to learn there in no legislation or consistent funding arrangements in Australia to ensure that AEDs are readily available when needed.
Under Frank’s proposed new laws, the Minister for Health, Stephen Wade, would be required to establish a register of where all the AEDs are located and at what times they are accessible to the public.
Minister Wade would also need to ensure the same information is available on a software application compatible with smartphones.
Father of three, Dan Lowe, 39, of Onkaparinga Hills, owes his life to an AED and those who acted quickly to use it.
He collapsed and “died” for 12.5 minutes while doing a workout at Orangetheory Fitness in Hawthorn three years ago.
In a life-saving move, the gym had invested in an AED – and with the help of four other gymgoers Dan calls his “angels”, the HR specialist survived.
“I wouldn’t be here today without the defibrillator, and the heroic efforts of my angels, I would have died there and then – it’s as simple as that,” Dan said.
“It turned out I had an electrical defect of my heart, which I was totally unaware of at the time,” he said.
“I was at my gym doing a regular workout. Without any warning signs, I collapsed and ‘died’ for 12.5 minutes before being brought back to life.
“I don’t remember anything about it – but I know I wouldn’t be here if not for the gym having an AED – and my wife would be widow and my children wouldn’t have a father.”
Frank recently met with UK born and trained, Dr Tim Leeuwenburg, who has been a doctor on Kangaroo Island for the past 15 years.
He instigated the HeartSafeKI program on the Island where there are now more than 40 defibrillators installed and 1200 people – about 20% of the Island’s population – trained in CPR.
It is now one of Australia’s leading “heart-safe” communities.
His team of his wife, Trish Leeuwenburg, and paramedic, Mick Berden, maintains a database of available AEDs on the Island and trains groups in hands-only CPR and use of a defibrillator.
The program works in conjunction with the GoodSam smart phone app which shows locations of defibrillators and also those trained in their use.
Dr Leeuwenburg was motivated to start the program three and a half years ago after noticing a high incidence of cardiac arrest on KI – in some cases taking up to 17 minutes for paramedics and an ambulance to reach a person who had suffered a heart attack.
Lawn bowler, John Vigar, 71, became the first life saved on the Island from an AED three months after it was installed at the Kingscote Bowling Club in 2017.
Since then, local sports clubs, the CWA and Progress Associations on KI have raised funds to roll out a network of AEDs along with volunteers who can use them.
Dr Leeuwenburg also wants to see AED’s installed on tour busses which ferry tourists around the island in the busy summer holiday period when the Island’s population triples.