Administrator to review Council defibrillator refusal
Central Coast Council administrator Mr Ian Reynolds has called for a review of Council's decision to refuse approval for a publicly-accessible defibrillator to be installed at Pearl Beach along with rescue tubes and resuscitation diagrams.
The Pearl Beach Progress Association announced a campaign to raise funds to purchase a defibrillator for the beach in December 2015.
The goal was to have a defibrillator along with rescue tubes and resuscitation diagrams located on the beachfront and at the rock pool.
The response to the campaign was so positive that the association was able to purchase four defibrillators.
The Pearl Beach Safety Advisory Group, a working group of Pearl Beach residents with professional backgrounds in health and safety, , was formed.
The Progress Association also received support from the Member for Robertson, Ms Lucy Wicks, who organised a grant of $8250 under the Stronger Communities Program for a cabinet to house the defibrillator.
Upon application, the Council declined to allow the devices to be made available to the public at the Pearl Beach beachfront or rock pool.
A statement from Central Coast Council on Wednesday, October 12, said that Mr Reynolds had received a letter from the association and had already asked Council staff to look into and review the decision.
That review is currently underway, according to the statement.
"Council staff are more than happy to meet with the association to find the best possible solution for the community."
The statement said Council's reasons for declining to approve the defibrillator and other safety equipment had been outlined in previous correspondence to the progress association.
Those reasons included "concerns about damage, vandalism, and equipment being used by untrained people and how the equipment is checked and maintained.
"The reserve they are talking about putting the equipment in received damage from storms previously and is exposed to impacts of environment," the statement said.
However, Pearl Beach resident Mr Dave Kennedy, who is Safety Advisory Group member and professional firefighter for Fire Rescue NSW, said the concerns were unwarranted.
He said: "I have undertaken over 100 rescues in the past 14 years as a professional council lifeguard.
"As an example, saving a five-year-old girl was made possible with a rescue tube, and we need equipment on our beach to save lives."
Since moving to Pearl Beach about a year ago, Mr Kennedy, who is a qualified CPR trainer, offered to start training community members as a way of supporting the association's beach safety initiatives.
Mr Kennedy said he had no concerns about the defibrillators being used by untrained individuals.
"It is quite the opposite. They are designed for use by members of the public," he said.
According to Mr Kennedy, Mosman Council had four defibrillators located at Balmoral Beach.
"They are public access devices that have been used twice and both people were bought back to life as a result."
The positive result was achieved because members of the public were able to use the defibrillators on the cardiac arrest victims within the first five minutes of the attack.
They still dialled 000 but did not have to wait the 10 or more minutes for the paramedics to arrive.
"It is common knowledge that a person's survival chances are reduced by 10 per cent for every minute lost before resuscitation begins," Mr Kennedy said.
"If we can get that defibrillator on them during the first five minutes their chances of survival shoot through the roof," he said.
"We can give the Council real life examples of people being bought back to life but there are no examples of misuse and no legal precedents that we are aware of."
The Pearl Beach Progress Association has organised for their defibrillators to be monitored by an alarm company, in an attempt to appease the concerns of the Central Coast Council.
Anyone needing to use the device will have to call the alarm company first to receive a security code.
"The user will need to call 000 then press the button on the device and basically they will get someone talking to them who gives them the code.
"You will start seeing defibrillators in train stations, shopping centres and other public places.
"That is already happening in Europe," he said.
In an open letter to Mr Reynolds, Pearl Beach Progress Association president Mr Ross Christie said the Council had placed impediments in the way of improving safety at Pearl Beach.
"I note that the Central Coast Council has: failed to respond to the report of the Coroner on the drowning of Chayce Kelly; refused permission for the Pearl Beach Progress Association, at its expense, to establish a defibrillator unit on the foreshore; failed to reply to a June 20 letter appealing against the decision of Council not to allow the Pearl beach Progress Association, again at its expense, to place rescue tubes and resuscitation charts on the beach and near the rockpool; and not responded to repeated requests to meet with you to discuss this matter," Mr Christie said.
"I trust that my file which evidences unreasonable impediments to improving beach safety at Pearl Beach never has to be tendered to the Coroner as evidence at some time in the future," he said.
Mr Christie said Council's decision did not take cognisance of the current state of defibrillator technology.
"They are specifically designed for public access and to be used by untrained people," he said.
"The embedded system avoids misuse and danger to operators and defibrillators are being rolled out in public reserves around Australia."
Mr Christie said the drowning of five-year-old Chayce Kelly at Pearl Beach in 2014 had "triggered a whole lot of beach safety issues including rescue tubes and angel rings or life buoys as they used to be called.
"I have offered to meet with council and bring a new-generation defibrillator with me so they could see it has been designed for public access," he said.
"They are foolproof.
"We have already had training for about 50-60 people in the village but you turn it on and a TV screen comes on and tells you what to do and it won't deliver a shock unless it assesses the patient and knows that is needed."
There is already a defibrillator located at the Pearl Beach shop but public access is limited to the shop's opening hours.
"I think they've got some misplaced concept of liability but there is no case law at all about anybody ever getting into trouble by attempting to help save a life."
Mr Christie said the progress association wanted the equipment in place before the beginning of the 2016-17 beach season.
"We've never done any number counts but it is a very popular spot and very heavily populated.
"I would have thought that on a sunny day 400 to 500 people would be on Pearl Beach."
Mr Christie said former Gosford councillor Mr Bob Ward had agreed to make representations to Mr Reynolds on behalf of the association.
"There is no doubt we are on the right side of history.
"This will happen.
"It is just a question of people waking up to themselves.
"We raised $26,000, and I would say $15,000 came from medicos and doctors who were very supportive of the appeal.
"One doctor gave us money on the proviso we would buy another defibrillator," he said.
Email, 11 Oct 2016
Lynne Lillico, Pearl Beach Progress Association
Interview, 12 Oct 2016
Ross Christie, Pearl Beach Progress Association
Interview, 12 Oct 2016
David Kennedy, Pearl Beach Safety Advisory Group
Media statement, 12 Oct 2016
Ian Reynolds, Central Coast Council
Reporter: Jackie Pearson