Program out of cash to put defibrillators in N.L. schools

An effort by the Heart and Stroke Foundation to install AEDs in every school in the province has run into trouble.
MaryAnn butt of the Heart and Stroke Foundation spoke to Anthony Germain about the need for AED's in schools. 4:23

An effort to install automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in every school in Newfoundland and Labrador has hit a major snag, running out of funding with only half of the schools in the province equipped so far.

"We just want to make sure that no matter what the community it is, no matter what school it is … that they have the tools they need to save a child's life, or a teacher's life, or a parent's life," said Mary Ann Butt, the chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

About 135 schools in the province are still without AEDs, and Butt worries about the risks of going without, especially in a population that faces critical cardiac issues.

"We have more heart attacks in this province than any other province in Canada, more strokes," she said. 

"Our levels of obesity in children and adults [are] higher than any other province in Canada, so we have a major concern," said Butt.

$380,000 short

The foundation has been using corporate donations to install AEDs and train staff in schools, with priority given to those schools with students who have heart conditions, but that well of money has been exhausted.

About 135 schools in the province still aren't equipped with a defibrillator on-site. (CBC)

It costs approximately $2,800 to install a device and to train staff how to use it. It would take about $380,000 to outfit the remaining schools in the province with defibrillators.

Butt said the foundation does not hold out much hope for provincial government funding, and is petitioning corporate donors for that money.

"We spend every dollar we bring in under the AED funding, on the AED program. Because it's critical. One of these days, we will save a life in a school," said Butt.

Butt said so far, no AEDs already installed in schools have had to be used.

"But we know from experience from the installing in rinks — we've had a number of lives saved through that program, So it's only a matter of time."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show