Fewer people surviving cardiac arrests – just 1 in 4 get to hospital alive

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By Dave Kelly

Around five people a day were treated for a heart attack by St John Ambulance medics in 2021 – that’s around 2,000 for the year – but just 500 survived.

Of the 1,967 heart attack patients (70% male) who were treated by St John, only 25% were alive when their ambulance reached hospital. Cardiac arrest response times were 8 minutes in urban areas and 12 minutes in rural areas (on average).

According to a report published by St John, the survival rate for a heart attack between 2020 and 2021 was 11%. One percent down on 2019/20 and 2% down on the 2018/19 year. St John is at a loss to explain the downward trend in lower cardiac arrest survival rates.

The St John report – Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Registry – states: “The 2020/21 reporting year has been very challenging for all New Zealanders.

“We experienced the on-going impacts of the covid-19 pandemic including periods of lockdown. Healthcare delivery changed – hospitals were put on alert, General Practice visits were frequently conducted by phone or online, and ambulance services also had to adapt.

“These extraordinary conditions likely account for the slight drop in survival from OHCA. The reasons for this drop are not immediately clear, but it could represent a lag in the impact of covid-19 on the community.

“St John needs to maintain and improve its investment into quality improvement in accord with the Global Resuscitation Alliance’s 10 Steps to improving OHCA outcomes.”

Download the full St John report here. Photo supplied by St John.

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