Calls Grow for Mandatory Defibrillators in Community Sport Settings, Urging Victorian Government to Take Action

Source: Herald Sun

St John Ambulance Victoria (SJAV) has launched a campaign demanding the mandatory installation of defibrillators in community sport settings throughout the state. The move aims to save lives by providing immediate aid in cases of on-field cardiac arrests.

Support for this initiative comes from the Ambulance Union, cardiovascular patients, and AFL Victoria. According to SJAV Chief Executive Gordon Botwright, having a defibrillator on the sidelines can make the difference between life and death. He emphasized that equipping sporting clubs with defibrillators is a crucial investment in public health, ensuring the accessibility and availability of these life-saving devices in the community.

Citing South Australia as an example, where a bill was passed last year mandating defibrillator installation in various public settings, including community sporting clubs, by 2025, Botwright called for similar prioritization of public safety in Victoria.

While the New South Wales (NSW) government has not mandated defibrillators in sporting settings, it has allocated $2 million to a local sport defibrillator grants program, active from 2022 to 2026. Victoria previously ran a similar program specific to defibrillators, but the application period for clubs closed in December 2017.

Responding to inquiries, a spokesperson for the Andrews government mentioned that local clubs could still seek financial assistance to purchase defibrillators through the general “sporting club grants” program, which covers a wide range of club necessities, including uniforms and skill development. However, defibrillator batteries and pads typically require replacement every two to five years, rendering the devices provided through the government program that ended in 2017 outdated.

The government did not comment on the possibility of mandating defibrillator usage or establishing protocols to ensure their regular renewal.

This call for mandatory defibrillators follows an incident involving Jojo Ofosu-Amaah, a Keysborough footballer who suffered a midgame cardiac arrest in April during an away match against Skye. The initial defibrillation attempt failed due to a faulty device, but he survived due to the presence of a second defibrillator and witness CPR.

Ofosu-Amaah expressed disbelief that an 11-year-old defibrillator was available while a functioning one was not. He stressed the need for defibrillators at every sports ground, regular accessibility checks, and penalties for non-compliance on game days.

Gordon Botwright added that the simple task of checking the battery status and expiration dates of defibrillator pads may have been overlooked in recent years due to lockdowns disrupting local sports activities. He urged authorities to prioritize these essential checks, emphasizing their crucial role in ensuring the preparedness of the device to save lives.

Data from SJAV revealed that only 1.45% of sudden cardiac arrest victims in Victoria receive bystander defibrillation. Cardiac arrest cases increased by 5.8% in Victoria during 2021-22 compared to the previous year. When shocked first by a public defibrillator, patients had a 50% chance of survival, compared to 27% when waiting for paramedics.

Danny Hill, Victorian Ambulance Union Secretary, highlighted the importance of quick defibrillation, as paramedics’ response times can significantly impact outcomes. He emphasized that having someone trained in CPR with access to a defibrillator greatly increases the chances of survival, particularly in sporting settings where many cardiac arrests occur.

Stuart Goddard, a Traralgon man who experienced a sudden cardiac arrest while preparing to play football, emphasized the importance of widespread availability of defibrillators. Goddard, who now has a defibrillator implanted.

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