by Doug Beazley
 
Between the stress of cash stakes and the fact that most of the patrons are over 40, casinos are prime heart attack territory, says an Edmonton doctor. 

   Which is why Dr. David Shragge, Misericordia hospital emergency room physician and director of the Alberta Heart and Stroke Foundation, thinks casinos ought to drop a few grand on electric shock defibrillators for their patrons.

   "Casinos tend to attract older people," he said. "A lot of them smoke. A lot of them are overweight. The potential (for cardiac arrest) is always there."

   Shragge said that if casinos spent the $4,000 to $11,000 it costs to buy a defibrillator, the foundation could train casino staff on how to use it.

   "The course fee is $25 each, and the machines are getting more simple to use all the time," he said. "Many of them offer computer voice cues to tell the user what to do at each stage of defibrillation."

   Shragge said Alberta Health recently confirmed that there are no professional restrictions on who can be trained to operate a defibrillator. Everyone from bus drivers to blackjack dealers can learn the basics.

   One local casino manager, who asked not to be named, said it sounds like a good idea.

   "We’d have to train our people," he said. "We have had a few heart attacks here. No deaths … the ambulance crews showed up all right."

   Shragge said a heart attack victim has the best odds for full recovery if someone gives him a defibrillator jolt within three or four minutes of the beginning of arrest.

   "In other circumstances you can end up with brain damage or worse," he said.

   He said other private-sector facilities, such as schools and sports facilities, should consider getting their own machines.