A recent study done by St John and the Auckland University of Technology has highlighted a worrying discrepancy in the placement of life-saving defibrillators throughout New Zealand.
Those living in the least deprived, urban areas are much more likely to have access to AEDs (automated external defibrillators) than those in the most deprived or rural areas, a statistic St John head of clinical audit and research Professor Bridget Dicker is urging New Zealanders to turn around.
Dicker, who is also an adjunct professor at AUT, says people in low-income areas are not only twice as likely to suffer a cardiac arrest but also have considerably fewer public AEDs available.
"Compared to Europeans, Pacific Island and Māori communities have disproportionately higher incidence of OHCA [out-of-hospital cardiac arrest] associated with risk factors such as deprivation, diabetes and smoking," she said.
"It is imperative we get AEDs into our most deprived areas and start increasing the chance of survival for our most vulnerable people."
St John Ambulance Hawke's Bay territory manager Brendon Hutchinson says 30 per cent of the most deprived areas in the region don't have access to a defibrillator, compared with 15 per cent in affluent areas.
For Hawke's Bay's urban areas, 13 per cent have access to the machine, while 25 per cent of rural areas don't.
Hutchinson said early defibrillation is a key factor in surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, something that can be done by bystanders accessing and using AEDs within the community.
Nationally, eight people a day suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
"From our point of view, it is getting it out there that we need to get these AEDs into the community.
"In rural communities obviously it takes longer for an ambulance to get there, so if you do have access to a defibrillator then that's going to be far more beneficial for the patient."
When someone is suffering a cardiac arrest, Hutchinson says people need to follow three simple steps; call an ambulance, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use the defibrillator if you can get access to one.
St John has an AED in Marae programme to provide training and AEDs to marae whānau, a programme than continues to grow each year.
While organisations tend to buy their own, it is down to community groups to fundraise to purchase and install the device in their area.
"What we would like to have happen moving forward is placement of AEDs in all communities - think about where they're put, because I think that's really important, they've got to be able to be accessed and for communities to look at fundraising and we're more than happy to work with any community groups that want to look at doing this," Hutchinson said.
In 2017, the Royston Health Trust and St John Ambulance in Hawke's Bay came together to buy 32 AEDs. And in 2008, the Hawke's Bay District Health Board was granted funding through the Endeavour Trust to purchase 60 AEDs to be located throughout the region. The DHB also supports training within the community setting.
For a full list of AED locations, go to: https://aedlocations.co.nz/