Matter of opinion

Denise Balkissoon

It didn’t even make the front page. Miriam Chrétien, 6, and her little sister Audrey, 3, shot to death in the wee hours of the morning of Sept. 30, 1998.

Shot. By their father. Rene Chrétien, 32, who then turned the gun on himself.

And the Ottawa Citizen didn’t even put the story on the front page. Relegated to the City section, the Oct. 1 headline read “Distraught father kills self, 2 daughters.” The article clarifies, stating Chrétien was “distraught over the breakup of his marriage.” read more

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Heart attack victims in Ottawa are dying for a shock

Matter of opinion

By Jason Brooks

Are slow ambulance response times in Ottawa killing people?
Just 5.4 per cent of people in Ottawa survive out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. A new regional study ties this to tardy ambulance responses.
The low save rate of cardiac arrest victims is “not unexpected given the long ambulance response times,” says the report. In Ottawa, ambulances take almost 15 minutes to reach most emergency scenes. In West Carleton, they take longer than 30 minutes.
But faster ambulances won’t necessarily save more heart attack victims. Here’s why:
When people have a severe heart attack, their heart usually goes into a state of “ventricullar fibrillation” – where the heart just quivers.
The best way to get the heart beating again is with an electric shock – from a cardiac defibrillator. That’s the device you see on the television show ER, the scene where the doctor yells “Clear!” and bolts the patient with two electrically charged steel paddles.
A shock must come fast. After four minutes, brain damage sets in. Chances of survival drop 10 per cent each minute. Even in Toronto, where ambulances reach patients in a speedy nine minutes, it isn’t fast enough.
So what’s the solution?
In the late 1980s, defibrillators first appeared outside of hospitals in Ottawa. They were installed in ambulances. Not surprisingly, given the long response times, the results weren’t encouraging.
In 1993, the region installed the machines in fire trucks – which reach an emergency scene in 4.5 minutes, much faster than ambulances. The save rate for cardiac arrest victims more than doubled, from 2.5 per cent to the current 5.4 per cent.
The next step doesn’t require government. It needs private entrepreneurs.
Recent technological advances have produced civilian versions of cardiac defibrillators. They are easy to use, and can be installed in office buildings, health clubs and shopping malls.
A voice in the machine guides users through defibrillating patients, from sticking thin gel-covered pads to the victim’s chest to pressing a button to give the shock.
The machines, the size of a laptop computer, measure the victim’s heart rate and shock only when needed.
I visited the fire department, and learned the basics of how to use one in 15 minutes — although full training takes a day for someone already schooled in CPR.
Doctors say there’s little risk in properly trained civilians — lifeguards or security guards, for example — using the machines. Doctors I talked to at the Ottawa Heart Institute say they encourage it.
Many airlines have already installed them on airplanes. Casino Windsor has one, as do some Toronto office buildings. In Ottawa, the Dovercourt recreation centre recently installed one and Parliament Hill just bought two.
Setting up a defibrillator isn’t hard. Private companies and the Canadian Red Cross offer training courses and will arrange for a doctor to certify the user. Some machines — which cost about $4,000 — come with liability insurance.
Faster ambulance responses would be nice. But the best way to beat the number-one killer is for savvy entrepreneurs to take advantage of new business opportunity.
After all, as a customer, would you rather go to a health club, a concert, a hotel that has a defibrillator or one that doesn’t? read more

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Getting off Scott-free

By Joe Boulé

Is accountability among elected politicians dead? Recent news headlines would lead many to believe the answer is yes.

Consider the following:

• In 1963, John Profumo, then British war minister, resigned because he had a relationship with a prostitute who also had Russian officials as clients. He then lied about the escapade to the House of Commons.
Today, U.S. President Bill Clinton has decided to remain in office after lying under oath about a sexual affair with a White House intern.
• In 1990, Jean Charest resigned from Brian Mulroney’s cabinet after trying to talk to a Quebec Superior Court judge about an active case.
Today, Solicitor General Andy Scott has made no attempt to quit after allegedly speaking too loudly on a jet plane. Topics overheard on the flight included the Airbus investigation, the APEC inquiry, and the finances of a member of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission.
• In 1873, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald resigned after accepting election funding from a team of prospective railroad tycoons. read more

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