Australia’s biggest supermarket chain is adding an unexpected item to its stores: defibrillators.
Not for sale, the defibrillators will be used to treat sudden cardiac arrest, and are set to arrive in 500 stores by the end of June.
Woolworths stores will also have a first-aid responder trained in using the Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
However, the AED is designed for anyone to use with step-by-step voice instructions.
Woolworths said it is prioritising stores in rural and regional communities, along with areas where access to medical sites may be difficult, before rolling out AEDs to all remaining stores.
“There are up to 15,000 cardiac arrests each year in Australia, and around 10,000 people die from it,” the Heart Foundation’s group chief executive, John Kelly, said.
“We know that for every minute without CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) or treatment with an AED to restart the heart, your chances of surviving a cardiac arrest go down by 10 percent.
“After 10 minutes without it, there is little chance of survival at all. For people who have a cardiac arrest outside hospital, the survival rate is only 10 per cent.”
Woolworths managing director, Claire Peters, added that the numbers are “troubling” and said that as a supermarket with stores in more than 1,000 communities, it is well-placed to help address it.
Billionaire Kerry Packer made a similar decision in 1990 after surviving a heart attack thanks to a passing ambulance.
At the time, not all ambulances were equipped with AEDs. Packer went on to call then-NSW Premier Nick Greiner and suggested he and Packer go halves to equip all ambulances with AEDs.
He made a $2.5 million donation, matched by Greiner.
The AEDs were fitted into every ambulance, now known by some as “Packer Whackers”.
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