The Department of Health (DOH) is stepping up its plan to make automated external defibrillators (AED) available in public places nationwide, hoping to install 44 of the devices per every 100,000 people by 2015.
Promoting the plan at a news conference at Taipei Railway Station yesterday, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said the automated defibrillators were easy to operate and could help save lives.
Equipping domestic ambulances with AEDs has already improved survival rates for people who suffer sudden heart attacks in Taiwan to 5 percent from less than 1 percent, he said.
Based on the experience of the US, Japan and Europe, the survival rate could be further improved to more than 30 percent if AEDs are more widely installed in public places, he said.
According to the health minister, about 20,000 people in Taiwan suffer sudden heart attacks each year, and if the AEDs could save up to 15 percent of them, it would mean saving 3,000 lives.
However, he stressed that the more rapid the response, the more effective the devices are. If the device is applied to people with sudden heart failure within one minute of when their heart stops beating, the rate of resuscitation is as high as 90 percent, Chiu said.
However, the survival rate drops by between 7 and 10 percentage points with each passing minute.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said on the same occasion that the health department has set a goal of installing 44 AEDs for every 100,000 people, which would exceed the ratio in Germany and the UK and match the level found in Australia. Taiwan has already installed 15.2 defibrillators per 100,000 people, many of them on public buses.
The department announced on May 23 that it intends to install the defibrillators on long-distance transportation vehicles, in tourist spots, schools, shopping malls and large meeting places and along major thoroughfares. Jiang also stressed that citizens who use the device, but do not save the patients are exempt from criminal liability, and he urged them to use the device without any worries.