BILL: Automated External Defibrillators

Today in Parliament, Mark spoke in support of this Private Member's Bill which would establish greater access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs). 


AUTOMATED EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATORS (PUBLIC ACCESS) BILL

I would like to start as well by congratulating the Hon. Frank Pangallo for bringing this bill to the chamber and also for hosting a very informative session yesterday morning about CPR and AEDs. As has been mentioned, two special guests were Mr Greg Page, better known as the original Yellow Wiggle, and Guy Leach, former Australian Ironman champion. Both had valuable stories to tell, one as the survivor of a heart attack who benefited from the availability of a nearby AED machine, and the other as a first responder who did not have access to an AED and whose friend might possibly have survived had a machine been available. The survival rate in cases where an AED machine is available can be around 70 per cent compared with only 10 per cent of cases where only CPR is available.

In general discussion afterwards with Guy Leech I mentioned to him that I was a regular participant in parkrun (or at least I was before the COVID pandemic shut down events such as that) and I pointed out that there is now always an AED machine at the start of each event, down on the banks of the River Torrens, and he reminded me that that was one of his initiatives. He was the one who got the AEDs into the parkrun movement. I think that is an excellent initiative, and I congratulated him for that.

These events get hundreds of participants and they mostly are not elite athletes; they are mostly just ordinary folk who are keen to keep fit. However, even so, strenuous exercise and strenuous activities are two-edged swords. They keep us fit and they keep our heart healthy, but they do impose stress and so having the security of knowing that there is an AED machine nearby should be encouraging to all participants, even those who are out of shape. I did make a mental note at the time to check whether the other three running clubs that I am a member of also have AED machines at their events; that is, the South Australian Road Runners Club, Trail Running SA and Ultra Runners SA.

It is now a matter of public record that I had my own heart issues last year which resulted in me spending Easter in hospital and receiving a quadruple heart bypass. My condition emerged not long after starting a 10-kilometre run but, luckily, I was less than a kilometre from home, and I was able to walk home and get a lift down to Flinders Medical Centre, which is only five minutes from my home. I say that because proximity to assistance is certainly a great advantage in cases where time is of the essence, particularly matters of the heart.

In fact, Guy Leech's defibrillator distribution business is known as Heart180, recognising the importance of getting an AED machine to a patient within 180 seconds, or three minutes, of a heart attack. It is a bold and ambitious plan but it is certain to save lives. I point out that my particular episode was not dramatic. I was able to walk home and get driven to hospital, no ambulance required, but the point is that being close to help can make all the difference.

I received an email on Monday from the Heart Foundation, Imelda Lynch, the CEO for South Australia and the Northern Territory. She starts her letter with:

The Heart Foundation supports the bill to make Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) mandatory in South Australia introduced by Hon. Frank Pangallo MLC.

I will not read the whole letter but it points out that in Australia less than one in 10 people who have a sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive. That is a very poor survival rate. Anything we can do to increase that survival rate has to be a good thing.

The Hon. Frank Pangallo's bill is certainly ambitious but that ambition is absolutely necessary. He is right, I think, to start with public buildings, public transport and other places where lots of people gather, because that is where these devices are most likely to be needed. I am very happy to be supporting the bill.