Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Doctor calls for defibrillators at large gatherings

Published:Monday | February 13, 2017 | 2:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Dr Hugh Wong

An urgent call has been made for all gatherings hosting 200 or more persons to be equipped with an automated external defibrillator (AED).

In explaining the potential devastating nature of cardiac arrests, Dr Hugh Wong, director of emergency cardiac care, The Heart Foundation of Jamaica, told journalists at a Gleaner Editors' Forum that while there is not an increase per se in cases of cardiac arrests, there has been a worrying trend, particularly among the younger population.

"A lot of the banks have, Jamaica National (for example), the airport, airplanes, but it is not mandated; and so the mandatory thing should be for places where there is a public gathering, of, let's say 200 or more people, you should have a defribillator, whether temporarily or permanently," said the consultant emergency physician at the Kingston Public Hospital.

"[Places] like the Transport Centre (Half-Way Tree, St Andrew) should have an AED. I don't know if they have but if they don't have one, that should be the thrust. I do know that the Ministry of Health provides medical support to large gatherings and so on, where there were ambulances with AEDs on them, but this is not standard," Wong said.

SMALL PRICE TO PAY

He reasoned that even though the US$1,900 purchase price may seem like an expensive undertaking, it is critical that the nation's leaders see the need to protect the population, as that's a small price to pay to keep someone alive.

"It may be a costly output, but you save a life," he declared.

Deborah Chen, executive director at The Heart Foundation of Jamaica, shared similar views, stressing that the machine is not harmful.

"It's friendly. It tells you what you need to do; all you must bear in mind is not to get ahead of yourself or too panicky. It will not kill somebody or shock you," she said.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com