Senior staff with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board decided Tuesday to have defibrillators installed by September 2018 in all of the board's schools, a week after a CBC story revealed 78 of the board's 119 elementary schools did not have the potentially life-saving devices.
- How an Ottawa boy's grief-stricken parents became 'accidental advocates' for defibrillators in schools
Last week CBC News told the story of Griffin Martin, an eight-year old boy who died on Feb. 24 after he went into cardiac arrest during recess at Orleans Wood Elementary School.
Though it's not known whether an automated external defibrillator, or AED, would have saved Griffin's life, the school did not have one, and Griffin's parents have campaigned to change that across the school board.
Not mandatory in Ontario
It's not mandatory for boards in Ontario to equip their schools with defibrillators, though Ottawa's English Catholic board has equipped every one of its schools with AEDs.
The OCDSB already had the devices in all of its high schools and in elementary schools with gymnasiums commonly used after hours by adult sports clubs.
OCDSB director of education Jennifer Adams said the board had always planned to put AEDs in all schools and was rolling their delivery out in phases.
"But certainly when a tragedy happens like that we take those kinds of things very seriously at the school district and it certainly promotes conversation," Adams said.
She said the board has been in discussions with the Martin family since Griffin's death.
"One of the questions that came up when Griffin did have the incident was could an AED have solved that problem, and in conversations with Griffin's parents, we don't know the answer to that, but we certainly know if an AED is there in the future and can help a student, or staff member, or a community person, that that's the right thing to do."
Maintenance, training were roadblocks
Mike Carson, the board's chief financial officer and superintendent of facilities, said earlier this month the barrier isn't money, but maintenance and training.
However Carson also acknowledged the technology has improved, and new resources make it "more practical for us to move ahead now."
Damien Martin, Griffin's father, was surprised those were ever sticking points. But he called the board's decision on Tuesday "very good news."
"It's an excellent start. I think there are still hundreds of schools across the province that don't have them, but it's good to see that the board is moving forward with this," said Martin, who had fundraised enough money so far to buy about nine or 10 AED kits and cabinets for schools.
"It is obviously very bittersweet that it took a tragedy like this to start the conversation, but I'm happy to see the progress."
Teaming up with paramedics
The school board will be partnering with the Ottawa Paramedic Service, which oversees some 1,200 defibrillators in public places across Ottawa, including rinks and recreation centres.
Derek Marriner, the coordinator with the paramedic service's public access defibrillator program, said it will still be the school board's responsibility to check the defibrillators monthly.
But if there are problems they can call paramedics and have them replace the machine until the original is fixed.
"I think it's great," said Marriner. "These units work. They provide an individual with a chance of survival."