Government says it is working to fully reopen hyperbaric chamber

The provincial government says it is working to get the hyperbaric chamber in Moose Jaw back to being fully operational again, after opposition New Democrats raised concerns on Monday morning.

The NDP staged a media event in Moose Jaw on Monday calling for the government to fully reopen the hyperbaric chamber that was closed in 2021. The Moose Jaw-based chamber had been used to provide oxygen treatment to assist burn victims, cancer patients and others needing the care. Opposition Leader Carla Beck was joined by families and firefighters at that announcement Monday.

Back in Regina, government officials were saying the hyperbaric chamber had already partially reopened at the new Moose Jaw hospital, and also said they were working to get it back to fully operational again once a full staff was in place.

Premier Scott Moe told reporters at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Convention that what they had been working on with the Saskatchewan Health Authority is “funding for specialists to ensure that Chamber can be open for Saskatchewan residents.”

Moe said it was his understanding that three of those individuals had been secured and that the chamber would be open on limited hours. “As soon as we are able to find the fourth specialist, it will be open back to the regular hours that it has. It is our intent entirely to restore the services of the hyperbaric chamber, despite having a break in some of the number of specialists that we need to do, so, getting there and will be there very shortly hopefully.”

At the Legislature Monday, Rural and Remote Health Minister Tim McLeod explained that during the pandemic, hyperbaric chamber specialists were in high demand and they were transferred away from the hyperbaric chamber unit.

“We are actively restoring those services,” said McLeod to reporters. He said they needed four respiratory therapists to fully operate the hyperbaric chamber in Moose Jaw.

“We have three currently, and we are recruiting the fourth. With the three that we do have, there has been a partial resumption of services, and as soon as we have a fourth respiratory therapist recruited, we will have full resumption of services at the hyperbaric chamber.”

The partial resumption would have been a “fairly recent development,” said McLeod, as the third respiratory therapist had been recruited just in the last couple of months. The hyperbaric chamber would be open a limited number of hours, based on the availability of the three respiratory therapists.

With the three respiratory therapists they have currently, McLeod said they are aware through the Saskatchewan Health Authority there are two individuals in Saskatchewan that need the hyperbaric service. One of those individuals is receiving service through the partial resumption, while the other individual is building a treatment plan together with their physician and through the SHA.

One individual calling for the full resumption of the hyperbaric chamber has been Brayden Dutchak, the son of a cancer survivor who has required the use of the hyperbaric chamber. At the legislature on Monday, Dutchak made it known he was not satisfied with what he heard from the Premier about the hyperbaric chamber during Question Period.

“It was a very generic copy and paste Google answer kind of situation,” said Dutchak. “No answer was given to the question in my opinion. So I’m not surprised.”

Of the number of respiratory therapists required, Dutchak said “there’s never been four. When it was running in 2016 and prior, they never had four. You can fact check it yourself, there’s been three. So I don’t know why when somebody needs it there’s four required now.”

Dutchak also took issue with the claim of minister McLeod of being aware of only two patients that need it, saying the reason so few need it is because so few are being referred.

“No physicians know that it’s open. I was talking to my mom’s oncologist and radiologist… and they were surprised to hear it was open because they heard it from me. They didn’t hear it from anyone else, they didn’t hear from the College, they didn’t hear from anybody else. That’s why there’s no referrals being sent over, because nobody’s aware that it’s open. They’re just being sent over to Calgary. Calgary has a wait list of one year. I was in Calgary. I talked to respiratory therapists, I talked to hyperbaric chamber doctors. That’s what’s going on.”

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