UMass doctor champions telephone CPR bill in Commonwealth Magazine op-ed

Commonwealth Magazine published an op-ed by Dr. Joseph Sabato Jr. this week urging the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a bill requiring 911 operators to be trained in how to deliver CPR instructions over the phone.

The legislation, which is supported by the American Heart Association, could improve the outcomes of people who experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital.

More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year. CPR, especially if administered immediately after cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival. About 90 percent of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die.

In his piece, Sabato,  who is an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the medical director of 911 telecommunications for the city of Worcester, describes a scenario that is all too common in Massachusetts.

IMAGINE THAT YOU are with a family member or friend and they suddenly gasp, grab their chest, and collapse.  You try to arouse them but they will not respond. You notice they are gasping. You grab your cell phone and dial 911. In many communities, you get the Massachusetts State Police and they ask you five questions. Then you are transferred to the local police fire dispatcher, who asks the same questions again. Finally you are transferred to an emergency medical dispatcher, who after asking the same questions, begins questioning that leads to CPR instructions. Your loved one or friend has been without a heartbeat now for several minutes.

Simply put, training 911 operators to give CPR instructions would save lives. Look at any highly performing EMS system and you will find a community committed to providing high-quality telephone CPR.

The American Heart Association strongly endorses legislation being considered on Beacon Hill would require Massachusetts 911 operators to have state-of-the-art training in telephone assisted CPR. The bills also add an emergency physician and regional EMS representative to the 911 oversight commission, providing valuable input into state policy and procedure for 911 communications. The legislation also makes out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest a reportable disease so the state may collect data to help identify best practices and further opportunities to save lives.

To send a message to your lawmakers asking them to support this life-saving legislation, click here.