June 4, 2023

‘We must do better’: Report reveals only 11pct of Kiwis survive cardiac arrest

Watch: Zac van den Engel is among the 11pct who have survived a cardiac arrest.

A new report reveals fewer New Zealanders are surviving cardiac arrest and Hato Hone St John and Wellington Free Ambulance say it’s the public who hold the key to turning that around.

The latest Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Registry shows 2348 people suffered a cardiac arrest in 2021/2022 (six people a day) but only eleven percent survived.

That’s down from 14 percent survival in 2018/2019.

“We can do better, we must do better. There are New Zealanders dying today unnecessarily and we need the community’s help” said Dr Damian Tomic, Hato Hone St John Deputy Chief Executive Clinical Services.

He said less CPR training in the community during the pandemic and slower ambulance response times are likely the reason survival rates have decreased. 

“Essentially our crews were sick like everybody else, the demand was through the roof. We were a service under pressure” Dr Tomic said.

Survival rates can more than double with community help. Bystanders can save lives by starting CPR and using an AED (automated external defibrillator).  

That was the case for 20-year-old Waikato University student Zac van den Engel who suffered a cardiac arrest at his part-time job at Duncan Ebbett in Hamilton in December.

He survived thanks to the quick actions of two colleagues, both knew CPR and used the company’s defibrillator.

With the help of firefighters, van den Engel was shocked six times over 30 minutes. 

“I’ve had no heart problems in the past, no health problems in the past then all of a sudden on this day randomly all of a sudden I was on the floor.”

The normally healthy Van den Engel has since been diagnosed with a congenital heart condition known as Wolff Parkinson White syndrome, but “feels really healthy”.

The report shows 76 percent of people who suffer a cardiac arrest are worked on by bystanders.

Every minute without CPR or the use of a defib decreases the chance of survival by 10-15 percent.

It said one of the contributing factors to patient survival is good quality chest compressions during CPR, and performing CPR during the transport of a patient may compromise the quality of the CPR being delivered.

Hato Hone St John and Wellington Free Ambulance are now urging all schools, workplaces and sports clubs to take advantage of its free CPR courses and get a defib.

Sarah Manley, Hato Hone St John Deputy Chief Executive of Community Health and Iwi Engagement, said St John’s 3 Steps for Life programme encourages people to call 111, start CPR and use an AED.

“Communities play a pivotal role in improving cardiac arrest survival rates, particularly for Māori and Pasifika whānau who are more likely to have a cardiac arrest and less likely to survive,” Manley said. 

More than 28,000 people learned 3 Steps for Life last year, bolstered by the organisation’s first ever Shocktober campaign during October, which empowered more than 10,000 people with the lifesaving skills. 

“Our goal is for everyone to feel confident in their ability to administer CPR and for these lifesaving skills to remain with them for the rest of their lives,” said Wellington Free Ambulance Clinical Director, Dr Andy Swain.

Would you like to receive notifications on latest updates? No Yes