Emergency Health Services has launched a four-year loaner program to outfit Royal Canadian Legion branches with life-saving automated external defibrillators.
The devices, also known as AEDs, shock a person's heart after they suffer cardiac arrest. When they're successful, AEDs force the heart back into a normal rhythm before a person's organs and brain begin to die. AEDs have to be used with CPR in order to be effective.
The sooner someone is treated with an AED after a cardiac arrest, the better their chances of survival.
"Time is definitely of the essence with these, so that's why we try to put them out in communities, organizations, halls — things like that — where there might be larger kind of gatherings," said Mike Janczyszyn, co-ordinator of Emergency Health Service's AED registry program. "It's an honour for us to essentially have these spare AEDs, or extra AEDs, that we can actually donate to the legion."
A total of 38 legion branches will get AEDs.
Emergency Health Services has AEDs to spare because it recently replaced the devices being used by its first responders, like firefighters, with newer models. Those models work better with the service's ground ambulance system, allowing it to better collect vitals from the person being shocked.
"Having said that, the models that we're taking in right now that are repurposed are still very functional in terms of a usable AED," said Janczyszyn.
The AEDs have been outfitted with new batteries and pads to ensure their effectiveness.
And the legion is happy to accept the devices, said Valerie Mitchell-Veinotte, executive director of the Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command of the Royal Canadian Legion.
"It just goes a long way to making our branches safer. Our branches are multi-use. They're not only places for veterans to gather and have peer support, but many Royal Canadian Legion branches within Nova Scotia are the actual community gathering spot," she said.
Some food banks, after-school programs and cadet programs operate out of legions. Legions across the province are still open although they have gathering restrictions in place and are running on reduced hours due to the pandemic, said Mitchell-Veinotte.
With the donation from Emergency Health Services, all but two of the province's 100 legion branches will be equipped with AEDs. Some of the legions have already received the devices, while others should receive theirs in the next several weeks.
"I'm sure there's a certain sense of security with the AED now in place," said Mitchell-Veinotte.
Key people at each legion will be trained how to operate the devices, she said.
The AEDs are being loaned out for four years because that's the lifespan of their batteries.
Emergency Health Services will re-examine the devices at the end of the four years and determine whether they are still functional or if they need to be replaced, said Janczyszyn.
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