The Hyperbaric Treatment Center has reopened and is once again providing 24/7 treatment for civilian divers suffering from decompression sickness, the University of Hawaii at Manoa announced in a press release today.
Operated by the university, the center at Kuakini Medical Center reopened last Monday after recruiting nine physicians trained in hyperbaric techniques. The facility closed unexpectedly on Oct. 19 due to a shortage of physicians.
It has also resumed non-emergency hyperbaric medical care for certain types of wounds and tissue damage caused by radiation therapy.
“We have reopened HTC with a crew of dedicated physicians, nurses and technicians,” said Susan Steinemann, the center’s interim medical director. “We understand the essential role the center plays for our local dive community and are diligently working to a complete re-establishment of services.
Meanwhile, a consultant is developing a business plan to guide the financial operation of the center because current emergency operations are not financially sustainable, according to Steinemann.
Providing year-round, 24/7, emergency hyperbaric oxygen treatment is expensive. Only about 1 in 10 hyperbaric centers on the continental U.S. offers 24/7 emergency service. Steinmann said community support was essential to maintaining the current level of emergency services.
“Resuming this critical service was a top priority for the University of Hawaii and the John A. Burns School of Medicine,” said Jerris Hedges, dean of the medical school. “There is still much to be done, but we are very pleased that we can once again provide this high-quality, very specialized care to the people of Hawaii.”
The center recently purchased new equipment including a ventilator, intravenous pumps and monitors, and is expecting to begin a $1.5 million upgrade funded by the state legislature this year which includes the renovation of the 40-year-old chamber and supporting systems.
The center has treated civilian divers for decompression sickness or “the bends” in Hawaii since 1983. Anyone suffering from a decompression injury is advised to first go to the nearest emergency department for immediate treatment.