New female manikin vests to help train people to perform CPR on women

A new vest that gives medical dummies a more feminine physique has been developed to help people being trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) better help female victims whose hearts have stopped and increase their chance of survival.

Traditionally, CPR training is taught with manikins with a male physique. Rescuers may not be as familiar with performing CPR on women, said the Singapore Heart Foundation (SHF), which developed the manikin vest.

Some also hesitate to perform chest compressions on women for fear of being accused of molestation if they touch a female patient's breasts. Likewise, worries about outrage of modesty may stop them from using an automated external defibrillator (AED) to revive a woman.

SHF board member Chee Tek Siong said such worries may lead rescuers to placing their hands too low on the chest, below a woman's bust-line, which may cause injuries when performing chest compressions during CPR.

But the female manikin vest can help familiarise first-aiders with where to correctly place their hands on a woman's chest - on the lower half of the sternum, just like for men.

Trainees can also learn how to paste AED pads without unnecessarily exposing a woman's chest.

Without intervention, a person's chances of survival drops by 10 per cent for every minute that passes after cardiac arrest.

Dr Chee said: "If you have a manikin that looks like a female, you can practise on it and you'll be more confident."

The manikin vests were distributed starting yesterday, which was National Life Saving Day, and will be issued to 60 CPR and AED training centres.

The number of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases in Singapore has been increasing and is now at about 3,000 a year, said the Health Ministry's Unit for Pre-Hospital Emergency Care (Upec). This is due to the country's rapidly ageing population and a rise in chronic diseases - diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions - that increase the risk of cardiac arrest.

But the number of bystander CPR performed has also increased - from 22 per cent in 2011 to 61.8 per cent in 2018.

Professor Marcus Ong, the medical director of Upec, attributes this to the dispatcher-assisted CPR programme launched in 2012 - where someone who calls 995 when witnessing a person suffering cardiac arrest is guided by the dispatcher over the phone on performing chest compressions.

In light of Covid-19, Prof Ong also said Singapore's emergency services will instruct people to perform "hands-only" CPR and not mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.