Hawaii hyperbaric chamber remains closed

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Hawaii hyperbaric chamber remains closed

January 03, 2018 - 18:45
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Facilities’ closure due to staffing problems.

Hyperbaric chamber in a hospital

The Hyperbaric Treatment Center, located at Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu and operated by the University of Hawaii under the John A. Burns School of Medicine, closed in October 2017 due to a shortage of doctors able to staff the facility. The facility will remain closed through February of 2018.

"The University of Hawaii is committed to seeking a solution for emergency treatment for diving illness," said Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine. "This is a top priority. We know how important the facility is to the dive community and the state and we apologize for the current situation."

The center has since hired a trauma and critical care medicine expert trained to administer hyperbaric therapy as its interim medical director. Another five to six locally licensed physicians were expected to undergo similar training. A request for $1.5 million to upgrade the facilities has been approved by the legislature.

Interim solutions

Meanwhile, the Divers Alert Network has asked The Queen’s Medical Center about potentially treating some cases of decompression sickness to help bridge the gap. The Queen’s Medical Center said they weren’t equipped to handle cases of the bends, as their facilities are designed to treat diabetic ulcers and bone infections.

Dr. Matias Nochetto, DAN’s director of medical services and programs, said they were trying to see how DAN and the wound heal center could work together until the Hyperbaric Treatment Center reopens. “We would all be in a much better position … if they would be willing to receive divers even during business hours,” he said.

For now, patients would need to be transported to Guam or the mainland, which introduces extra time and risk of complications, not to mention the financial cost of transoceanic emergency care. The university continues to seek interim solutions for physician coverage to care for divers who need treatment. In the meantime, divers hit with the sickness are advised to seek treatment at the nearest emergency room.

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