Bunnings urged to backtrack over defibrillator

Dr Hamish Osbourne with a defibrillator machine at Dunedin Hospital. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dr Hamish Osbourne with a defibrillator machine at Dunedin Hospital. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
A University of Otago doctor is calling on Bunnings to reverse its ‘‘silly'' decision to remove a defibrillator from its Dunedin store.

‘‘[Bunnings is] a perfect place that should have [defibrillators], and it should be a policy nationwide to have them in every store - not to not have them,'' sport and exercise physician Dr Hamish Osbourne said.

Dr Osbourne was one of several readers who responded to a report in this week's Otago Daily Times on Bunnings' decision about five weeks ago to remove the life-saving apparatus.

Dunedin employees had raised money to buy the defibrillator after a colleague died from heart-related health complications about three years ago. In a leaked email explaining the removal, Bunnings New Zealand manager Jacqui Coombes said there was ‘‘a 0.26% chance'' of someone having a ‘‘cardiac event'' in the store.

‘‘Therefore the overall risk is very low, especially in comparison to sporting facilities - gyms, rec centres, etc. - which have a higher risk due to the nature of activities that their customers engage in, i.e. strenuous physical activity.''

The defibrillator would be given to ‘‘a community group or sporting facility'', she wrote.

But Dr Osbourne said the risk of someone having a heart attack at Bunnings was probably higher than at a sporting facility.

‘‘Heart attacks are more common in older people. If you think about a Saturday afternoon, [there are] younger people at the beach, and older people at Bunnings. Bunnings is the obvious place [to have a defibrillator].''

Dr Osbourne also said it was ‘‘just silly'' for the company to cite the lack of ‘‘availability of [a] trained team to operate the units'' as a reason for removing the defibrillator.

‘‘You almost don't need any training. They're taught on most first-aid courses.

‘‘The machine tells you how to do it. You can't shock somebody who doesn't need it.''

Dr Osbourne said every moment a person spent in cardiac arrest put them in a worse position for recovery.

St John South Island spokesman Ian Henderson said the ambulance service was contractually obligated to respond to cardiac arrest calls within eight minutes. But eight minutes could be important.

Research had found a person's chances of survival could decrease by 7%-10% with every minute they went without treatment.

‘‘Each minute of someone being in cardiac arrest, that means the heart is being damaged, so the quicker that people can do CPR on the person and the quicker that a defibrillator [can be obtained], will increase their chances of survival.''

Bunnings marketing manager Valerie Staley said on Friday: ‘‘There is nothing further to add to our previous statement. We can only reiterate that the safety of our customers and team are of paramount importance to us.''

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