St John has released its Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA) Report today which shows that more needs to be done if community cardiac arrest survival rates are to be improved.

Cardiac arrest continues to be our silent killer, with ischaemic heart disease one of the highest causes of death in New Zealand each year.

Last year, St John Ambulance treated over 2,000 people for a cardiac arrest out in the community, with 31% of those surviving to hospital arrival. This survival rate is now the lowest against the five emergency services St John benchmarks against and St John Clinical Director Dr Tony Smith says more work and resources are needed if we want to save more lives.

The Global Resuscitation Alliance identifies 10 steps to improving outcomes, including high performance CPR training, and measuring resuscitation performance to enable review and provide feedback. St John has been unable to implement three of these vital steps.

“We are wanting to establish more complex clinical training and auditing of each cardiac arrest, and to provide advanced education and new technology to our ambulance officers in order for them to provide the high-performance CPR which is a critical link in the cardiac arrest chain of survival.”

Dr Smith says that more work also needs to be done to raise public awareness of the importance of bystander CPR and use of defibrillators.

“Bystanders can save lives by starting CPR, as early intervention can double the chance of survival. Everyone can learn CPR and using a defibrillator is simple – if you know how to use a cell phone, you can save a life.”

This year the research studied the effects of COVID-19, and in particular lockdown, on cardiac arrest survival rates.

Dr Smith says that while there were additional precautions in place to keep both ambulance officers and the public safe, St John ambulance officers continued to resuscitate patients during this time and resuscitation rates remained constant.

The research also shows that Maori and Pasifika are more likely to have a cardiac arrest and less likely to survive.

Sarah Manley, St John Deputy Chief Executive of Community Health and Iwi Engagement, says St John is working hard to address inequities in New Zealand with free programmes in communities such as 3 Steps for Life, ASB St John in Schools, and facilitating donations of AEDs to communities and marae by donors and sponsors including St John’s key partner, ASB.

“We want to enable communities to be resilient and have the tools and support needed to make a difference.”

St John wants everyone to know the 3 Steps for Life – call (an ambulance), push (start CPR) and shock (use a defibrillator).

Anyone who is confident in CPR can join up to GoodSAM which is an app that alerts people that there is someone in cardiac arrest in the area allowing them to possibly save a life.

The 2019-2020 reports can be viewed here.

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