Tokyo FD considers paying bystanders to give first aid

The proposed 'Bystander Insurance' will pay medical fees to civilians that become injured or infected while helping others

By Tomohiro Osaki
Japan Times

TOKYO — In what is expected to be a first in Japan, the Metropolitan Fire Department may offer financial aid to people who administer first aid to accident and disaster victims, an official said Friday.

The fire department is calling on the public not to be afraid to help the wounded in the event of a medical emergency.

Although still in the making, the initiative promises that medical fees for those who have performed first aid will partially be covered should they somehow get injured or infected themselves while helping others.

The planned assistance, tentatively titled Bystander Insurance, will be effective across most parts of Tokyo, fire department official Toshiaki Kaibasawa said Friday.

A recent survey conducted by the department found that some Tokyo residents are reluctant to perform first aid because they are afraid of being infected if they come into direct contact with the injured party’s blood.

They also voiced fears that they may make mistakes that could exacerbate a patient’s condition.

But Kaibasawa described first aid as — at least in some cases — “essential” for survival and urged Tokyoites not to hesitate to get down and help a victim.

Statistics suggest that the active involvement of bystanders increases the chances of an accident victim’s survival.

Of all 12,763 people who reportedly suffered from cardio-respiratory arrest in 2013, for example, 4,665 fell ill in the presence of bystanders.

The bystanders performed emergency treatment in 1,864 of the cases by using automated external defibrillators or providing other assistance.

A follow-up investigation found that the survival rate for those who received first aid before professional help arrived stood at 14.2 percent, more than three times higher than the 4 percent for those who did not.

Kaibasawa stressed that first-aid action in medical emergencies is growing more important than ever because ambulance services cannot keep up with the rate of accidents.

Compared with the situation in 1999, when it took staff from the Tokyo Fire Department an average of 5 minutes and 24 seconds to reach a stricken patient, the figure rose to 7 minutes and 54 seconds in 2013.

Kaibasawa attributes the delay to an increase in the number of public requests for ambulances.

©2015 the Japan Times (Tokyo)

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