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Emergency Hyperbaric Treatment Availability affected by Covid-19 crisis

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Emergency Hyperbaric Treatment Availability affected by Covid-19 crisis

Sun, 05/09/2021 - 11:11

Medical facilities, which were usually available to treat injured divers in an emergency, may not be available until the current medical crisis passes. For the recreational diving community, this is a critical safety issue.

The decreasing availability of treatment facilities willing or able to provide emergency hyperbaric treatment when we need it most increases our risk as divers.
The decreasing availability of treatment facilities willing or able to provide emergency hyperbaric treatment when we need it most increases our risk as divers.

The standard of care for many diving illnesses is recompression. Treatment delay is one of the most significant risk factors for a negative outcome when treating divers with decompression sickness or arterial gas embolism. Hence, an injured diver must be brought to the most appropriate, available treatment facility with as little delay as possible.

Finding an available hyperbaric facility close by may, however, not be as straightforward in these times when many chambers are being used to treat Covid-19 cases. Many hyperbaric facilities are not open during the nights or weekends because they have regular daytime business hours and do not staff their units after hours. Also, some facilities do not wish to treat divers, as wound-healing therapy is much more profitable than emergency hyperbaric treatment for pressure-related dive injuries.

It is therefore essential to know where suitable recompression facilities are located, but also that they are able to be used to treat injured divers. Hence, facilities that you may end up being referred to may not be local to your dive location.

For example, as previously reported, in the southeastern United States, hyperbaric chambers from New Orleans to Tampa have been filled with Covid-19 patients, and facilities are unable to offer emergency hyperbaric services to other patients such as divers, who have had to be sent out of state, further delaying treatment.

So what a safety-minded dive traveller must do is to determine if treatment facilities at or near one's favourite dive location are, indeed, available on a 24/7 basis, and if not, take risk-aversion up a notch.

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