(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
More than six years after the Knesset passed a law requiring automatic defibrillators in public places to save the lives of heart attack victims, the Economy Ministry has at last begun to map the country to determine where the devices already exist.
The 2009 law requires all public places with at least 500 customers or visitors daily to purchase and install automatic defibrillators.
The private member’s bill established joint responsibility for implementing the law: The Health Ministry would prepare regulations dealing with the medical aspects, while the Economy Ministry (which was then the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry) would deal with the technical aspects – determining which public spaces had to purchase them, training staffers to use them at each workplace, deciding where on the premises to install them, and taking care of supervision and enforcement.
But while there was some coordination between the two ministries, the division of responsibility resulted in red tape that has delayed the installation of the devices.
Hundreds of defibrillators, which cost only about $1,000-$1,200 each, have been installed voluntarily, but there are still thousands of public places without them.
On Wednesday, the court system announced that it had purchased 18 advanced defibrillators for cardiac resuscitation, which would be installed in 17 courts around the country. Two have been set up in Tel Aviv’s largest court.
The Health Ministry’s regulations originally set July 2014 as the deadline for installation, but most places did not make that deadline due to the lack of mapping.
The courts have arranged for the defibrillators’ importers to train security guards to use and maintain the devices, which send an electrical current through the chest to “restart” hearts that have stopped beating. The courts’ security branch has also purchased a simulator to train staffers in the device’s use.
Court staffers undergo first aid courses once a year, so the use of defibrillators is becoming a part of the lessons.
Although any passerby can use the device in an emergency, many do not know how. Public service ads and website information would likely be an effective way of instructing the public in using defibrillators.
Miri Cohen, who heads the Health Ministry’s emergency medical service division and who was involved in the matter even before the law passed, told The Jerusalem Post that she was “really looking forward” to receiving the Economy Ministry’s map of sites with existing defibrillators and learning which other locations were required to have them. But she said the Economy Ministry had not informed her when the data would be available.
The National Council for Cardiology raised the idea of making public defibrillators available, some time before the law’s passage.
“The project should have been completed long ago,” Cohen stated. She did not know whether educational institutions and IDF facilities already had them installed.
She added that rescue organizations such as Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah would probably offer instructions to people who called in emergencies.
Senior United Hatzalah official Daniel Katzenstein said his organization would be glad to advise public places’ personnel on the devices’ use, adding that the organization’s Safe Family and general cardiopulmonary resuscitation courses “have trained thousands of people how to properly perform lifesaving CPR and use defibrillators to save lives.”
Cohen added that her ministry was working on a separate program to require restaurants and other food establishments to have Epipens (epinephrine injectors) on hand for treating people with certain food allergies, who can go into potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.
No comment on the delays in implementing the defibrillator law was available from the Economy Ministry by press time.
Once the Economy Ministry catalogues the places that already have the devices, the data can be added to the Waze smartphone app, as well as to websites and other information locations. Most hospitals, health fund clinics and airports have already installed defibrillators.