THE Argus has been at the forefront of an excellent campaign to have heart defibrillators provided in every school in the Gwent and Rhymney Valley areas in memory of 15-year-old Jack Thomas from Oakdale.
It is an appeal I fully support, although I would like to see the use of defibrillators spread much further across Wales.
I tabled a question to the Education Minister last month on what action was being taken by the Welsh Government to encourage and enable schools to have a defibrillator on site.
The Minster provided a written answer stressing that there was no specific requirement for schools to have access to one of the machines, although all schools should have arrangements in place for dealing with emergencies.
As far as I’m concerned that does not go far enough, particularly as the Minister said the Welsh Government recognised the effectiveness of defibrillators and the Welsh Ambulance Service had introduced them into public places such as railway stations and town centres.
There are just 600 public access defibrillators across Wales and around 5,000 people have been trained in their use.
In fact, the Minister told me that the ambulance service had a list of just 32 schools in Wales that were known to have one of the machines.
That’s a very small number when you consider just the number of secondary schools in Wales.
Much more clearly needs to be done. It is also vital that more people are trained in their use.
Everyone has to play their part in improving the situation – parents can lobby schools, schools can raise the issue with local authorities and the Welsh Government needs to take a lead to have defibrillators in public places.
Of course, the importance of on-site medical equipment and support was perhaps best highlighted in the well known case of footballer Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a heart attack while playing in a Premier League match in 2012.
Having defibrillators on site, along with medical support, was key to Fabrice’s survival.
Donations to Jack’s Appeal can be made through the Welsh Hearts charity, which has so far donated more than 50 defibrillators. Definitely a good cause to support.
I spoke recently on a Plaid Cymru debate on the future of the Valleys.
Solutions must be developed to secure a sustainable future and economic security that our people have already waited far too long for.
Interventions from Government have sadly not been that successful.