Interview with Blacktown City Council
Extract: MHF Life, 2nd Edition, 2019
Publishing Partner: Access News
THE Michael Hughes Foundation has applauded Blacktown City Council for being the first in NSW to rollout defibrillators in Council-owned sporting facilities across the LGA.
It’s a move the Foundation would like to see emulated by councils throughout the Sydney region and beyond.
Foundation executive director Julie Hughes said while having a defibrillator available increased the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest, there were challenges in seeing the life-saving machines deployed in the community.
“Defibrillators are not mandatory to have and there is a lack of policy, legislation and frameworks to support a network of them in the community,” Ms Hughes said.
“Our Foundation focusses attention on the cardiac chain of survival and heart safe community frameworks and much work is needed to support community action on this health issue.”
Blacktown City Council purchased over 100 defibrillators with a total investment of $252,000, including funding collaboration of almost $90,000 from several organisations including $20,000 from the Federal Government’s Stronger Communities Program.
Council’s Manager of Recreation Planning and Design Matthew O’Connor said more than 80 units had already been deployed, with the rollout continuing.
Most at risk
“We had to decide on placement and where our focus should be,” he said.
“We set out to understand who was most at risk (of a heart episode) with our focus on community-based sports grounds and tennis courts.
“The Michael Hughes Foundation’s work was critical as a catalyst to nudge Council into gear to do something in this area.
“But we’re not done; we’re still learning how to get better at this and adopt a more systematic approach.
“With 157 new sport and recreational facilities to deliver in our LGA over the next 20 years, the defibrillator rollout will be ongoing.
“One of the challenges was deciding where in each building the units should be placed to ensure maximum benefits in terms of accessibility to all user groups and overall security.
“Locating them in the canteen is often best for general access.”
The Council supported user groups with training in line with its rollout of the defibrillators. This was to increase awareness of cardiac arrest and confidence to use the equipment.
A key to the success of this program, Mr O’Connor said, was retaining the defibrillators as Council assets so they would be in line for regular maintenance, along with fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.
Blacktown Mayor Stephen Bali MP, who is also the State Member for Blacktown, said he was proud that Blacktown City was the first council in NSW to roll out defibrillators in every sporting venue under its control.
“Council facilitated the purchase of 101 defibrillators at sporting venues across the city and organised first aid training for club officials who can now be confident in using a defibrillator to save a life,” Cr Bali said.
“I encourage other councils to follow suit and ensure residents and ratepayers have access to this vital equipment.”
Ms Hughes said Blacktown City was leading the way for other councils in the state.
Leading the way
“This is a huge investment in making the machines more accessible for communities – we would like to see more councils following this lead,” she said.
“But there are many challenges around placement, security, accessibility and knowing exactly where they are when an actual event occurs.
“We need more awareness activities to educate communities on what cardiac arrest is and to increase confidence for individuals to be lifesaving first responders.”
“CPR is an essential life skill to help keep people alive before the Ambulance arrives and needs to be done in conjunction with available defibrillators which attempt to kick start the heart. The two must go hand in hand for the greatest chance of survival.
”The Foundation is focussed on assisting the improvement of existing programs, like Blacktown Council, by making defibrillators more accessible, mapping and communicating their locations and creating responsive communities with tangible strategies with local insight.
“We would like to see an Australian Standard set for defibrillators, similar to the Fire Safety Standards and the Building Code of Australia.”
This article was published in partnership with Access News – MHF Life Edition 2.