Need for additional first responders raised in Seanad

“Deficit” in the number of community first responders at this moment in time nationally.

The national roll-out of first responder training to all Garda districts, including the provision by the National Ambulance Service of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to all patrol vehicles, was raised in the Seanad by local Fianna Fail Senator Robbie Gallagher.

He opened his remarks on the debate by paying tribute to communities throughout Ireland who have been fundraising for defibrillators, as well as schools and business premises, and the to volunteers who have given up their time to train to become first responders.

“They are a credit to themselves, their families and their communities for their responsibility to and solidarity with their communities.”

Sen Gallagher said it was “particularly impressed” by an initiative undertaken in the Buncrana Garda district recently where the National Ambulance Service provided cardiac first response training to members of that Garda district.

As a result the National Ambulance Service installed a defibrillator in every single Garda vehicle, including a motorcycle, and Sen Gallagher stated that it was an initiative he would like to see rolled out throughout the country.

“It is a simple situation that could be life or death. Members of the Garda are on the ground 24-7 and in fairness to them, they respond as quickly as they possibly can. It is an excellent initiative that I would like to see rolled out. I believe that training in basic first aid and cardiac first response is something that should be universal and that we should begin it in schools,” says Sen Gallagher, who helped introduce a Bill in the last Seanad on first aid and mental health first aid.

“It is a simple initiative but one that could prove a matter of life and death to some poor unfortunate individual.”

Minister of State for Disabilities in the Department of Children, Disability, Equality Integration, Anne Rabbitte addressed the house on behalf of Minister for Health, Simon Donnelly.

She thanked Sen Gallager for using his time to raise the matter, and thusly making the wider public aware of the work under way as part of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest strategy with regard to the training and deployment of automated external defibrillators.

She acknowledged there is a “deficit” in the number of community first responders at this moment in time nationally, but that the National Ambulance Service has been looking at other ways of equipping people to become first responders.

“It is important that, where we know there is a deficit, the National Ambulance Service works with the local fire brigade or An Garda Síochána to train and equip them, so there are no gaps left in any communities across the country.

She added that “good progress” was made during 2021 on the implementation of the strategy, supported by Government funding, and it is my expectation that progress will continue in 2022.

“In particular, the National Ambulance Service, via the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest strategy, continues to advance development of a national AED register, which will enable the service's national emergency operations centre to locate all publicly accessible defibrillators when it receives a 999 or 112 call.

“Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is a significant source of mortality and morbidity, with a wide variation in its reported incidence and outcomes globally. Research has shown us it takes an entire system to save a life, which is why a strategic whole-nation approach is planned. Improving out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival is essential.”