A high number of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs ) in the Athlone area may be neglected and non-functioning, an experienced paramedic told the Athlone Advertiser.
Mark Finlay, a regional director for the Order of Malta and paramedic with the National Ambulance Service, said that while businesses, organisations and sports clubs often have no problem paying hundreds of euros to install a defibrillator on their premises, they frequently neglect to perform basic maintenance necessary to keep these devices working.
"Defibrillator pads usually have a two year lifespan. The problem with these pads is that they have a gel on them that can dry out in changing weather conditions," he explained.
"These AEDs run on nine volt batteries and self-test," he said. "People just don't take them out of the cabinet, turn them on, and test them. I can't understand why people pay six or eight hundred euros for a piece of equipment and won't pay the price of a nine volt battery every six months."
Mark estimates that there are more than 70 AEDs in Athlone. Of these, he has personally seen several that are in need of maintenance.
"I have witnessed several around the area that aren't maintained," he said. "Unfortunately, there's nobody who goes around checking and servicing them, so it could well be a problem waiting to happen."
Local Councillor John Dolan echoed Finlay's concern, stating: "The pads do need to be replaced every so often. We do have defribillators in lots of GAA clubs now, but the problem is the cost of the maintenance."
Dolan, whose life was saved this year by a defibrilator, added: "There really should be some sort of financial support for that, it really is a no brainer."
There are an estimated 5,000 sudden cardiac deaths in Ireland each year, with more than 70 per cent happening outside a hospital.
Organisations with defibrillators should contact the device's manufacturer for servicing guidelines. They can also get in touch with the Order of Malta for AED advice, maintenance tips, and other information. Email [email protected].