News October 3, 2023

Saskatchewan Blue Cross Supports Saskatoon Heart Safe – A Program with Heart

Saving lives with Automatic External Defibrillators

Imagine you’re playing a round of golf.  Suddenly one of your friends collapses on the green. He has no pulse. What do you do? If an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is on site, you can save your friend’s life. A sudden cardiac arrest can strike any time.

Statistics from the Saskatoon Heart Safe Program indicate that a person’s chance of survival drops by 10 per cent every minute, unless someone starts chest compressions or uses a defibrillator.  Every second counts. A defibrillator used within the first few minutes of collapse increases the patient’s survival rate by as much as 75 per cent. That’s why its so important to have AEDs available in public spaces.

Yet less than 12 per cent of victims receive help from an AED, according to St. John Ambulance.

“Saskatchewan Blue Cross is committed to empowering healthy lives, and we are proud of our long-standing partnership with Medavie Health Services West and the Saskatoon Regional health Authority to deliver the Saskatoon Heart Safe Program,” said Kelly Wilson, President and CEO of Saskatchewan Blue Cross. “It’s a highly successful and proven program which has saved lives of Saskatchewan residents, ensuring loved ones have more time to spend with their families.”

The Saskatoon Heart Safe Program (Public Access Defibrillation) is a community program which works with businesses, public venues and other organizations throughout the Saskatoon area to place AEDs in public spaces.  This way people can quickly and easily find them in the event of a cardiac emergency. The program was introduced in 2005 and is proudly supported by Saskatchewan Blue Cross.

“Thanks to Saskatchewan Blue Cross, we’ve saved 40 lives in Saskatoon. We couldn’t do it without their support,” says Troy Davies, Director of Public Affairs at Medavie Health Services West and spokesperson for the program.

These user-friendly devices require no special training. When someone goes into cardiac arrest, simply place the two defibrillator pads on the person’s chest.  The AED analyzes the patient’s cardiac rhythm and gives clear instructions on what to do next.  All you have to do is follow the voice commands of the AED.  It detects the heart rate through the pads and delivers a shock to the heart only if it’s needed to help restore the heart to its normal rhythm. You can not accidentally shock someone using an AED.

Places with AEDs have reported survival rates as high as 65 per cent. This is in stark contrast to the five per cent national survival rate for those who experience Sudden Cardiac Arrest without access to a nearby AED. The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates that approximately 40,000 Canadians die from cardiac arrest each year and the majority of these occur in public places or at home.

Saskatoon’s Heart Safe Program is one of the most successful programs in North America. An AED is now available in more than 1,300 locations throughout the Saskatoon region. And that number is growing – four to five AEDs are added to the program each month.

“Saskatchewan Blue Cross is instrumental in funding the Heart Safe Program Coordinator, whose work is crucial to ensuring this life-saving equipment is always ready to save a life. The coordinator travels regularly to each location outfitted with an AED to ensure the batteries are fresh and the defibrillator pads have not expired,” said Davies.

AEDs have saved lives in many places including rinks, golf courses, swimming pools, at the airport and at local businesses. Victims have ranged in age from 34 to 83. For example:

  • A 46 year old man collapsed while curling at the rink across from Saskatchewan Blue Cross in Saskatoon. He was saved by staff who used the on-site AED to shock his heart.
  • A 69 year old man suffered a cardiac arrest while at Costco. Staff used the AED located in the store and saved his life.
  • A 60 year old man was shopping at Canadian Tire last summer when an off-duty paramedic from Halifax, who happened to be shopping as well, used the store’s AED and saved his life.
  • A 79 year old man collapsed on the ice while playing hockey. He wasn’t moving and wasn’t breathing.  Two fellow hockey players used the AED at the rink to save his life.

There are numerous other stories about the important role that AEDs have played in saving people’s lives. The goal of the Saskatoon Heart Safe program is for AEDs to be as common and readily available as fire extinguishers, as cardiac arrest can occur anywhere and at any time.

If someone suffers a cardiac arrest, the crucial steps to survival are recognizing a cardiac arrest, performing CPR right away, calling 911 for emergency assistance, and using an AED.

About Saskatchewan Blue Cross

For more than 75 years, Saskatchewan Blue Cross® has been committed to delivering exceptional health and wellness benefits, travel insurance and life insurance solutions to Saskatchewan residents and employers. A locally based, not-for-profit organization, it’s recognized as one of Saskatchewan’s Top Employers, one of the Top 100 Companies in Saskatchewan, one of Canada’s Top 100 Brands (as part of the Canadian Association of Blue Cross® Plans), and proudly supports the wellbeing of more than 200,000 members. With a mission to empower communities on their journey to whole health and wellness, and a vision for a future of lifelong health and wellbeing for every person in Saskatchewan, this team is committed to advancing and benefiting the communities they call home. Learn more at:

Media Contact

Cheryl de Villiers
Director, Marketing & External Affairs