The survival chances of those struck by heart attacks in the seaside community of Waimarama are looking brighter after the installation of a defibrillator by St John.
Yesterday Waimarama Marae became the first in Hawke's Bay to receive an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) as part of a St John project to reduce the number of Maori cardiac arrest fatalities.
St John's Director of Community Health Services Sarah Manley said St John's annual Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest report found Maori were 20 times more likely to suffer a cardiac arrest than any other ethnic group.
Rural communities such as Waimarama had the added risk of distance from emergency services, St John Hawke's Bay clinical support officer Dale Walters said.
"In a situation when someone's heart stops you've got four minutes to get it going again before irreversible brain damage starts to occur and for every minute you delay it exponentially decreases the risk of surviving.
"Obviously we can't get an ambulance out here in four minutes and what they've found internationally is when a defibrillator is placed within a community and people can access that quickly you exponentially increase the chances of survival."
Mr Walters said no amount of chest compressions or drugs could help someone suffering from a cardiac arrest.
"The primary thing that happens to a heart when somebody goes into cardiac arrest is it shakes like a jelly. What this defibrillator does is it stops it from doing the shaking motion and gets it beating again by delivering an electric shock."
The AED installed at the Waimarama Marae, to be followed by another installation at Petane Marae, follows more than 40 that have already been distributed in businesses, schools, sports grounds and other marae throughout the country since 2015.
The $2000 devices had been strategically placed as a community resource to improve health outcomes of those in high-risk areas, Mr Walters said.
"We know these are focal points and unfortunately Maori and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately represented in New Zealand for poor health outcomes and cardiovascular disease.
"It's just a really good fix so that if somebody in the community has a cardiac arrest somebody from the marae can come down here, grab the defibrillator and take it back to the person. It increases the chance of survival."
Marae trustee Marama Tiakitai Hart praised the initiative and said the AED would be placed in the rest area of the marae, which is accessible to the community at all times.
"We want to make it available for the community so we can't have it locked away in a cupboard. The community can come to the Waimarama Marae and it will be accessible to anyone who needs to use it," she said.
Mr Walters said all AEDs had programmed dialogue instructions and anyone who called the St John call centre would also receive instructions from operators on the phone.