03/23/2015 10:39 EDT | Updated 05/23/2015 05:59 EDT

Family wonders why no AEDS in Walmart, company says evaluation ongoing

SASKATOON - The family of a Saskatoon man who went into cardiac arrest in the parking lot of a city Walmart wants to know why the retail giant doesn't have automated external defibrillators on hand.

John Tomchuk, who is 62, survived thanks to a pair of off-duty nurses who performed 20 minutes of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and a third person who ran to another nearby store to get their AED.

Tomchuk's daughter, Lisa Kusch, says the nurses "could not have done the good job that they did without that third critical piece of equipment."

Alex Roberton, director of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada, says the company is "still in the process of evaluating the need and feasibility for our stores to maintain a defibrillator."

Roberton says every store has an employee on shift who is trained in CPR and first aid, noting that is the requirement by law.

Governments are recognizing the life-saving potential of AEDs, such as Manitoba, which enacted legislation in 2013 requiring the devices to be installed in high-traffic public places such as gyms, arenas, golf courses, schools and airports.

That same year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced $10 million in funding for AEDs in hockey arenas Canada-wide.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says survival rates increase by 50 per cent if both defibrillation and CPR are administered in the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest; with each passing minute, that chance of survival drops by up to 10 per cent.

"We are working with governments and businesses to install AEDs in all public places, so that they are as common as fire extinguishers," the foundation said in a statement. "We encourage any business that has a high volume of customers or staff to consider installing one."

Tammy Reddekopp, who sells AEDs, said store employees are usually quick to adopt the idea of having an AED for emergencies, but corporate head offices will be reluctant in the face of liability concerns.

"They still have this idea that it's this big medical procedure like they'd see on TV where there's these paddles and stuff like that, so they're uncomfortable with having that in their company, feeling that there might be a liability," Reddekopp said.

"But it isn't a medical act. This is no different than offering someone a first-aid kit with Band-aids."