Making defibrillators mandatory in Manitoba

In a matter of seconds, a defibrillator can bring someone back from the brink of death. Now, if the Manitoba government has its way, the life-saving machines will be installed in schools, rec centers and other public facilities throughout the province.

"Cardiac arrest can strike quickly and without warning, but access to a defibrillator can dramatically increase the odds of survival," Health Minister Theresa Oswald said in a news release Wednesday. "Our government is the first in the country to introduce legislation that would help increase the number of defibrillators and support public accessibility to these devices, which could save the lives of many Manitobans."

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba, defibrillation can dramatically improve cardiac-arrest survival rates at least 75 per cent over CPR alone.

"Manitobans do not have to die of cardiac arrest. Immediate access to defibrillation could mean the difference between life and death in a cardiac-arrest situation," said Debbie Brown, president and chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba. "We would like to see defibrillators as commonplace as fire extinguishers and this legislation is a great step forward."

The new legislation would also require signage to identify the location of the defibrillator, and require that the machines be centrally registered. This registry would be shared with 911 dispatchers to allow them to help cardiac-arrest victims find the nearest defibrillator and guide them through the proper use of the machine.

The province would work with medical experts, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba and other community stakeholders to decide where to place the defibrillators.

"We know cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital 85 per cent of the time," said Chris Broughton, a Winnipeg paramedic and president of Manitoba Government and General Employees Union Local 911. "Paramedics are in the business of saving lives and public access to defibrillators while paramedics are on their way can literally mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of people."

Based on findings of their review, installation of the defibrillators would be phased in to allow facility owners to incorporate these costs into their financial planning. Schools and community recreation centres would also be able to access provincial government funding for defibrillators through existing capital and grant funding programs.

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