Telegram & Gazette: Massachusetts dispatchers to receive CPR training under proposed state bill

A single piece of legislation, if passed, could save as many as 500 lives a year in Massachusetts, according to a UMass Memorial Medical Center doctor, reports the Telegram & Gazette in a story published on Tuesday.

The Worcester-based newspaper interviewed Dr. Joseph Sabato, an emergency medicine physician and American Heart Association volunteer, who argued that the state Legislature should pass a bill that would require all 911 operators to be trained in CPR.

From the story written by reporter Kim Ring:

…in Massachusetts, sometimes a 911 caller can wait as long as six minutes before an emergency dispatcher starts instructing them on how to perform [CPR], Sabato said.

“It’s too late,” he said.

The U.S. city with the best survival rate for heart attacks is Seattle, where 60% of those who experience a cardiac arrest survive. In Massachusetts, the number of survivors is much, much lower.

“It’s 3 ½%,” Sabato said. “That is horrible. The national average is 10%.”

If you call 911 in Massachusetts because someone is in cardiac arrest, there’s a good chance the first person you talk to will not able to give you CPR instructions over the phone.

Here’s why: In some Massachusetts communities, when you call 911, you’ll reach the Massachusetts State Police. They’re not trained in delivering CPR instructions over the phone. To make matters worse, your call could then be transferred to your local police/fire dispatcher, who are also not trained in telephone CPR.

It’s not until your call is transferred a second time – to an emergency medical dispatcher – that the you will receive CPR instructions.

Unde the proposed legislation, a 911 dispatcher would ask if the victim is conscious and if they are breathing. If the answer to both question is “no” CPR instructions would be given over the phone immediately.

The bill was filed by Michael D. Moore, a Democrat from Millbury. Sabato is working with the American Heart Association to champion the legislation.

“The dispatchers can save so many lives,” he said.