Update: see previous post – July 22, 2011 Defibrillators Located at Every Toronto Transit Commission Subway Station
EMS says the 1,400 defibrillators it runs across the city are fine and the one in question worked after the incident.
Emergency officials have confidence in life-saving public defibrillators despite the death of a man last month after one malfunctioned.
Toronto paramedics continue to investigate a death in which a public access defibrillator failed, leaving an elderly man dead on a subway platform.
On Nov. 8 a man in his 70s collapsed at Museum Station around 10 p.m. The conditions were ripe for saving: a nurse and a doctor happened to be nearby and the station had a portable defibrillator.
But when they put the paddles on the man’s chest, the machine failed — it was dead. Firefighters showed up within minutes, used their own defibrillator, but by then it was too late. The man died on the platform.
Paramedic, fire and TTC officials all told the Star the machine malfunctioned. All also said the man may have died regardless.
“When the unit was removed from case the battery had become disconnected,” said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross.
Ross believes it is either a design issue or user error.
Toronto EMS, which runs the public access defibrillator program in the city, tested the machine. The machine was working fine both before and after the incident, according to EMS spokesperson Kim McKinnon. The defibrillator that failed has been sent to its manufacturer, Physio Control, for further testing, McKinnon said.
They hope to have the results sometime this week. Physio Control did not respond to questions.
The EMS runs a city-wide portable defibrillator program, called Cardiac Safe City. There are 1,400 units in city-run buildings from subway stops to community centres to City Hall.
The selling point is its simplicity. They are easy to use and it saves lives — 9 people this year have been successfully brought back to life, McKinnon said.
Paramedics, an off-duty officer and a doctor used a portable defibrillator to bring Const. Andrew Rosbrook back to life after his heart stopped during the Toronto marathon last spring.
The machine, when powered up properly, talks you through the process, from where to place the paddles and whether the person is in cardiac arrest — it won’t shock someone if it can detect a heartbeat. Then, with the push of a button, a shock, and hopefully, a heartbeat.
“These machines save lives, that’s the bottom line, we need more of them around,” said fire Capt. Mike Strapko. “I’ve never heard of one malfunctioning till now.”
A bill to place these defibrillators in public places across the province has passed two readings at Queen’s Park and is now at the standing committee stage. The bill hopes to make these mandatory in places such as hockey arenas, fitness centres and other activity.
“I want these defibrillators to be as common as fire extinguishers,” Rosbrook told the Star in September. “Without it, I would be dead.”
There are roughly 7,000 cardiac arrests in Ontario each year, and up to 85 per cent of those occur in public places, according to the bill’s preamble.
The paddles, when used with CPR, improve survival rates by more than 50 per cent
The defibrillator program has been in place since 1998 in Toronto and, McKinnon said, this is the first time one has malfunctioned.