Juneau hospital shuts down compression chamber used for diving emergencies

AnchorageAugust 9, 2013 

From KTOO: It's back to the 1970s for Southeast Alaska scuba divers.  Anyone who requires emergency treatment in a hyperbaric chamber will have to wait for a flight to Anchorage or Seattle. Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau removed its chamber and closed the program after new regulations prompted a funding spat with NOAA, whose own divers in Southeast Alaska were glad to have the chamber handy.

Scuba divers are at risk of decompression illness, also known as the bends, which can be caused by a fast ascent, a deep dive, or a long dive. ... 

Over the decades, the chamber at the hospital was also used for carbon monoxide poisoning and healing wounds. Dr. [William] Palmer says within the first six months of its arrival [in 1980], the chamber was used to treat 10 cases of monoxide poisoning.

The Juneau hyperbaric chamber had been used less frequently in recent years, but divers felt it was still needed, NOAA dive center manager Douglas Schleiger told KTOO. 

“If there was a way to work it out where it could be up there and operated by trained, certified folks, and liabilities issues are all worked out, certainly I would do that if it’s feasible because our divers have not gone away. They are still there.”

Read more: Southeast divers must travel far for emergency care


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