North Vancouver schools refuse life-saving donation
A mother whose son died from a heart attack at school says that the North Vancouver School District has told her that before she can donate a life-saving defibrillator to one school, she has to pay for one for every other school in the province.
Colleen Badger told CTV News that the district also wanted her to lobby the provincial government to change its own policy and force schools to accept the devices before they would consider accepting one.
"It was very frustrating," said Badger, who has been offering to purchase a defibrillator for Argyle Secondary School, where her son David died of a heart attack four years ago. "It's a daunting task, and I can tell you I can't afford that.
"I can't see how you can't do it (in Argyle Secondary) because it saves lives," she said.
After hearing the news via a phone call, Badger went straight to the North Vancouver School Board meeting and asked Board Chair Susan Skinner why.
"We are not in a position to accommodate singular donations," Skinner told her in the meeting. "What is done for one should be done for all."
In response to a CTV News question about why they wouldn't improve safety at one school with a free defibrillator, Skinner said, "I will not be conducting an interview this evening."
Neither she nor the school district's communications manager would comment on or confirm what they told Badger over the phone.
Automatic External Defibrillators are becoming more common in public places across the province. The idea is that when someone suffers a cardiac arrest, their chances of survival increase greatly when a defibrillator is used quickly.
The school board's position is a slight change from the board's previous stated position to CTV News, which was that they would simply not accept a donation at all.
That's despite some 20 other schools applying for a free donated defibrillator left over from the Olympics. South Delta Secondary School already has a defibrillator donated by parents, as do most catholic schools in the Lower Mainland.
Every school in the Edmonton public school district has one, as do many in Ontario.
The units themselves cost about $1500, and upkeep each year can cost about $780, including training, but the costs are often fronted by organizations such as the Gianfranco Giammaria Memorial Society.
"If you can have one defibrillator over no defibrillators, that's a benefit to everybody," Dr. Allan Holmes told CTV News.
North Vancouver School Superintendent John Lewis said he would be more comfortable if the devices were not donated, and the province could pay for them.
"We can't rely on charity," Lewis told CTV News after the board meeting. "We have fire extinguishers and sprinklers, we don't ask our parents to donate this and we shouldn't ask this of other safety items either."
The province's position on defibrillators has been to encourage them in public places, but to leave the decision on whether to get one -- and the funding -- to local authorities.
But North Vancouver is under such financial pressure it's looking at closing schools.
Badger said she had received a lot of support from parents, who would attempt to get political support from larger parent boards.
"If you can't get in the door one way, you can get the door another way," she said. "Because the end product is we need defibrillators in schools and public places to save lives, and that's what I'm hoping we can get in the end."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward