Over the past two years, Health P.E.I. has made some minor tweaks to Emergency Services but overall deserves a failing grade. It is still the only Maritime province without an AED (defibrillator) registry which would allow 911 dispatch to locate the nearest AED for callers suffering a heart attack.
In July, Minister Henderson announced plans for developing a provincial registry but it is a hollow promise that is unlikely to succeed for three reasons. First, it does not include any funding incentives to encourage AED owners to register: batteries and pads used to save a life would have to be replaced by the AED owner, entirely at the owner's expense.
Second, many AEDs that are located in pharmacies, grocery stores, and rinks will not be accessible on a 24/7 basis - only during business hours. Also, storeowners may be reluctant to have their AED used outside of their own store premises.
Third, and most importantly, Health P.E.I.'s plans for an AED registry fail to include capacity for an extended network of volunteer first responders using the Pulsepoint smartphone app.
This proven smartphone technology has been widely adopted elsewhere, by many communities across the U.S., UK and Australia. It allows 911 dispatch to inform volunteer first aiders who happen to be nearby a heart attack, so that they can quickly respond to apply CPR/AED long before the ambulance arrives. Saving minutes saves lives.
Reducing the time it takes to restart the heart is the single most important factor in improving health outcomes for cardiac arrest, not the quantity or quality of ambulances and emergency physicians.
Finally, Health P.E.I. should improve accountability and transparency in measuring system performance, by reporting response times separately for cardiac emergencies, like most other provinces.
(Currently P.E.I. only reports quarterly averages, for all emergencies combined). It should also measure and report "time until delivery of initial AED shock" for these cardiac arrest cases. Health P.E.I. should refocus on cardiac response times and timely 24/7 AED access, as key priorities for saving lives.
- Chris Robinson, a resident of Cavendish, purchased his own Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), a device used to restart a person's heart following cardiac arrest. He is a supporter of a provincial AED registry.