KARACHI: The Pakistan Life Savers Programme (PLSP) — a nationwide initiative to train 10 million citizens in life-saving skills — was launched by an alliance of public and private healthcare institutions at the 5th AKU Annual Surgical Conference on Saturday.

The programme aims to reduce the burden of death and disability from two major causes of death; cardiac arrest and blood loss from injuries through a nationwide training plan that will teach citizens how to perform simple tasks that can improve an individual’s chances of survival.

Highlighting the need for such a programme in the country, speakers at the event said preventing deaths from cardiac arrest and injuries (such as road accidents, gunshot wounds and serious household mishaps) required a strong “chain of survival”.

This chain, it was pointed out, was a sequence of critical actions that started at the incident site and concluded at the hospital. Trained bystanders represented the first ‘link’ in the chain that could play a vital role in improving survival rates if someone suffered from cardiac arrest and blood loss from injuries.

“Since the majority of cases of cardiac arrests and injuries occur out of hospital, Pakistan needs a critical mass of citizen rescuers who can act as a ‘bridge’ in the healthcare system and provide essential support before a patient is taken to a hospital for care,” said Dr Noor Baig, a senior instructor in emergency medicine at AKU.

In the majority of cases, he said, these patients arrived at the hospital “when it’s too late as they have either lost too much blood or their heart has stopped beating for too long.”

If a trained bystander could provide early vital care by recognising a cardiac arrest or massive bleeding, activating the emergency system and applying cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or measures to stop the bleeding, doctors would be in a better position to treat patients, Dr Baig concluded.

Other speakers shared how other countries, for instance, Japan, Singa­pore, Ireland and the United States, had benefited from similar initiatives.

PLSP is a multi-stakeholder collaboration whose members are: Aga Khan University, Aman Healthcare Services, Dow University of Health Sciences, Edhi Foundation, First Response Initiative of Pakistan, International Committee of the Red Cross, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Mukhtar A. Sheikh Hospital, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Institute of Trauma, Sindh government, Ziauddin University.

The first phase of PLSP will be launched in Karachi where hundreds of volunteers from the alliance will impart CPR and bleeding control skills to trainers.

This group will then teach the same content to school and college students with each session guiding participants to assess the individual’s condition and ensure scene safety, to communicate with emergency response services, to initiate chest compression in the case of cardiac arrest, or to apply tourniquets and other bleeding control measures for injuries and to disseminate preventive public health messages.

The programme would then be expanded across Sindh and other provinces in line with its goal of training 10 million people across the country over 10 years.

“Besides imparting lifesaving skills, the PLSP seeks to instil a sense of leadership and civic responsibility. Each preventable death represents an enormous loss to our country and PLSP seeks to empower Pakistanis to protect their loved ones and fellow citizens from harm,” said Dr Junaid Razzak, director of AKU’s Centre of Excellence for Trauma and Emergencies.

Sindh Minister for Human Settlement Ghulam Murtaza Baloch expressed support for the programme and said there was a huge need for life-saving skills in the country as it faced high number of mortality and morbidity due to traumatic injuries.

At the event, a tripartite MoU was signed by AKU Medical College dean Dr Adil Haider, Sindh secretary for college education and literacy Rafique Buriro and Sindh health secretary Zahid Ali Abbasi.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2020