People living in Manitoba's 30 northern First Nation communities will soon have access to automated external defibrillators.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), an organization representing most First Nations in the province's north, received 73 new AEDs from the province and will begin installing them in its 30 communities.

"Moving forward, we are able to save lives where historically no life-saving devices existed, ensuring that our loved ones are afforded equal access to life-saving medical devices," said MKO Grand Chief David Harper at a press conference in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Last year, the province provided $1.3 million to purchase and distribute 1,000 AEDs to non-profit and community-owned facilities through the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba including those provided to MKO.

"The placement of AEDs in Manitoba's northern communities is a great step toward creating a heart-safe environment and we fully support and thank the Manitoba government for providing funds for this important public safety initiative," said Debbie Brown, chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba.

"Far too many Manitobans die each year from sudden cardiac arrest and immediate access to defibrillation means more lives can be saved in the province."

An AED contains electronics that can identify cardiac rhythms, and then deliver a shock to correct abnormal electrical activity in the heart. The devices offer step-by-step instructions so training is not required. 

Using a defibrillator with cardiopulmonary resuscitation can improve survival rates by more than 75 per cent over CPR alone when a person suffers a cardiac arrest, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba.

Manitoba was the first province in the country to develop legislation requiring public places to have AEDs available on-site including gyms, indoor arenas, certain community centres, golf courses, schools and airports. The Defibrillator Public Access Act, was proclaimed on January 1, 2013.

MKO was successful in working with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba, Health Canada and the province to ensure northern Manitoba communities were also accounted for as part of this announcement.

There are currently 2,875 AEDs registered in public places across Manitoba.

A full list of designated public places required to have a defibrillator on-site, as well as information about the types of defibrillators that are acceptable and how they must be installed and registered is available on theprovincial government website. The link is at left of this page.