Tue | Jun 6, 2023

Urgent need for automated external defibrillators

Published:Monday | March 20, 2023 | 12:15 AM


The research in cardiac arrest has shown overwhelming results – an individual who has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest will have a very high chance of surviving when an automated external defibrillator (AED) is used within the first few minutes.

This very important lifesaving equipment is very scarce in Jamaica; meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Wellness needs to initiate protocols for the use of AEDs at public events. For quite some time, first responders have been operating without this equipment, the very presence of which could be the difference between life and death. As a trained medic, I am adding my voice to this important concern.

Jamaica is operating in a space where there is no readily available emergency medical system. Ordinary Jamaicans do not have access to ambulance service, except in odd cases where private entities fill the gap, or when the Jamaica Fire Brigade, with its limited resources, may be able to assist. Several studies done over the last decades point to the fact that the outcome in sudden cardiac arrest is drastically improved with the use of AEDs complementing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The American Heart Association’s journal Circulation – Dallas, February 26, 2018. states that “survival from cardiac arrest doubled when a bystander stepped in to apply an automated external defibrillator... before emergency responders arrived”. Bystanders have the potential to save a life, so this should be a great incentive for public health officials and bystanders to strive to have AEDs used on all victims of cardiac arrest.

I am calling on the authorities to mandate and enforce, with the same enthusiasm and rigour as seen during the height of COVID-19 pandemic, that all sporting activities, entertainment events, large public gatherings, and other such occasions put the basic mechanisms in place to ensure public safety. This could be a properly staffed and equipped ambulance, a first aid team, or emergency medical technicians. We need action now; let us be proactive.


Director, Emergency First

Aid & Safety Training