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Defibrillators Provision

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 22 June 2021

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Questions (68, 85)

Mark Ward


68. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if it will be made a requirement for defibrillators to be placed in all sports organisations to ensure the greatest chance of survival from sudden cardiac death; and if resources will be provided to such organisations to meet this requirement. [33329/21]

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Ruairí Ó Murchú


85. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she is satisfied with the number of defibrillators located in sports clubs throughout the State; if plans are in place to increase the number; if consideration has been given to further supports for club networks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33228/21]

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Oral answers (9 contributions) (Question to Tourism)

We are all aware of the recent incident involving Christian Eriksen collapsing on the field of play. I take this opportunity to commend the Danish football team on the dignified way they minded their teammate and the medical staff on their response. Like most people, I watched in horror thinking the worst was going to happen and was delighted that it did not. Having a defibrillator and trained personnel on site made a difference to Christian Eriksen still being alive today. Will it be a requirement for sporting organisations to have a defibrillator? Will funds be available for them?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 85 together.

I echo what the Deputy said. We were all horrified by what happened to Christian Eriksen and I commend his teammates on what they did on the day. I am glad he is recovering well.

The procurement of defibrillators and subsequent training is in the first instance a matter for each individual club. However, the State provides a number of supports for their purchase and training for their use. The sports capital and equipment programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Grants are available for a wide variety of capital works and non-personal sports equipment including first aid kits and defibrillators.

Defibrillators situated at sports clubs are generally also for community use. Funding is also available through the HSE’s national lottery grants schemes and other community grants schemes. At a local level, the network of local sports partnerships throughout the country deliver education and training opportunities across a broad range of areas to local sports clubs and community groups. This includes first aid workshops, which typically cover CPR and-or defibrillator training as part of the content.

Defibrillators can improve a person’s survival chances following sudden cardiac arrest and their availability can be an important part of the medical response. I would encourage all governing bodies to support their clubs in their efforts to purchase defibrillators. I am aware that much important work is happening already. The three large field sports have been very proactive and have dedicated programmes in place relating to cardiac care, screening and defibrillator training.

A number of national governing bodies of sport also have schemes in place to support their club networks in cardiac care, screening and defibrillator training. The GAA’s community heart programme, the FAI’s heart care programme and the IRFU’s safe rugby programme are excellent examples of proactive supports to assist clubs and members to participate safely in sport.

Sport Ireland has also commenced work on the development of a national database of sport and recreation amenities. This GIS-based database encompasses considerably more datasets than was originally envisaged in an audit of sports facilities and is expected to be substantially completed within two years. As part of this work, Sport Ireland is examining a proposal to include the location of defibrillators in the database. This would be an important part of our sporting infrastructure and would allow us to see where defibrillators are located and then target investment on having them located in areas where there has not been an intervention up to now.

We have ongoing capital and equipment supports for defibrillators and also through our local sports partnerships. It is important that we train volunteers in our communities so that they can use the equipment in a way that saves a person's life. We should also have ongoing support through the sporting organisations for their maintenance and so on. I have outlined the broad range of supports there and I appreciate the importance of the question.

I thank the Minister of State for that response. In my area I commend the Ciaran Carr Foundation. Ciaran collapsed while training in 2012. He was training for my club, Round Tower GAA club, and despite the valiant efforts of his teammates, Ciaran tragically passed away just short of his 21st birthday. His parents, Gemma and Phillip, set up the Ciaran Carr Foundation to raise awareness of sudden adult death syndrome and provide supports for the families of people who pass away as a result of it. I acknowledge the work the Government has done in providing funding for the equipment. Would the Minister of State consider having an awareness campaign on where these are located, how to use them and how clubs can access the funding for this life-saving equipment?

I echo what Deputy Ward has said. We were all shocked by what happened to Christian Eriksen. We were absolutely delighted that it did not end in tragedy. There was spectacular action, particularly by the Danish captain and his teammates. Obviously, the medical care kicked in quickly. We need that to happen in all these sorts of circumstances.

I accept what the Minister of State has said on the sports partnerships and the amount of grants available. We need to ensure we have a steady supply of these defibrillators where they are needed. We also need to ensure people are trained up. The Minister of State mentioned the GIS database system. I ask him to consider an audit to go beyond just sports groups so that we also look at the community sector and ensure as many defibrillators as are viable are provided wherever they are needed.

I am sorry about Ciaran Carr and I commend his family. In my area, Seaghan Kearney, who is involved in St. Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh GAA club, tells the story of the importance of having a defibrillator in communities throughout the country. In response to Deputy Ó Murchú's question, this will primarily cover the deficits in sporting infrastructure throughout the country. We are trying to ensure it includes defibrillators. I will engage with my colleagues with responsibility for the community sector.

Speaking personally, a relation of mine passed away from sudden adult death syndrome and I know how difficult that is for the families. I would be supportive of an awareness campaign. Family screening is also important. Many people are not aware of how it can run genetically. Having cardiac screening for families that have been affected is also important. I would absolutely support any campaign on that front.

Na Gaeil Óga is an Irish-speaking GAA club in Lucan. It plays in two different parks, located in two different local authority areas, Griffeen Valley Park and St. Catherine's Park, one of which is in the South Dublin County Council area the other of which is in the Fingal County Council area. Members of the club are really concerned that if there were an incident, it would be too late for them if they needed to get a defibrillator on site. Not all clubs have a structure or a building in which to locate a defibrillator. Would the Government consider working with local authorities to provide defibrillators in local parks so that all sporting organisations can avail of them irrespective of whether they have a building in which to locate them?

Will the Minister of State work with the local authorities to achieve this? This would be very beneficial. In my own area, there are hundreds of children involved in Collinstown Football Club, but there is no defibrillator in the park where they play. This would be a really welcome initiative. I ask that the Minister of State work with the local authorities to proceed with it.

I am sorry to hear about the tragedy that occurred within the Minister of State's family. It highlights the necessity for defibrillators and for us to ensure the availability of defibrillators and know-how in that regard where and when it is needed. We need to make sure that happens.

I welcome the Minister of State's commitment to engage with some of his colleagues in regard to putting in place a holistic solution. Screening is necessary. I have heard it said previously that one in 500 people have cardiomyopathy, but as most people do not train as elite athletes they are not necessarily always tested. We need a greater level of screening. As I said, an audit, not only in regard to sports clubs but across the community sector and local authorities, would be beneficial so that we can identify the deficits. We must ensure we have defibrillators where we need them when we need them.

I am sure that the broadcasting team will be delighted to get back to Leinster House where they are able to press a button and update the system much faster than they can here.

I welcome the questions from Deputies Ward and Ó Murchú. In the days that followed the Christian Eriksen collapse, I would say many Deputies got emails from members of the public querying the availability of automated external defibrillators, AEDs, in their communities. In that regard, the local Lions organisation in Fingal has an extensive list, which is really useful to be able to provide to people.

It has been brought to my attention that Dublin City Council has an extensive list of public locations. Fingal County Council, which is my local authority and that of the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, does not. As mentioned by one of the Deputies, it would be a good idea to ask our local authorities to co-ordinate on this issue. I am aware that there are funding streams available to other non-governmental organisations for the provision of AEDs, in addition to the sports capital grants. The Government might consider the roll-out on a national basis of a register and maps for AEDs.

I thank all of the Deputies for their questions and constructive input. I agree with what Deputy Farrell said. All of the local sports partnerships are interlinked with the local authorities. We can play a role in aligning the sports infrastructure with community facilities in line with what the Deputy mentioned has been done by Dublin City Council. We will work with all Deputies on this issue. What people saw on their screens with regard to Christian Eriksen has alerted the minds of everyone to it. We also need general screening. Deputy Ó Murchú mentioned cardiomyopathy. It is a condition unknown in so many people until something happens, which then results in families getting screened. Any event or incident that brings about public attention should cause us to provide a proper response, be that through the provision of information working with the local sports partnerships, the local authorities and the community sector. My door is open to everyone so that we can save lives. This is an important issue to raise.