Hyperbaric services to resume Monday

Dave Bartlett
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Eastern Health adds two single-person hyperbaric chambers

Dr. Ken LeDez was almost beaming as he demonstrated one of Eastern Health's new monoplace - or single person - hyperbaric chambers for reporters on Thursday.

LeDez is the director of Eastern Health's hyperbaric medicine program.

The new chambers look like a cross between an incubator for premature babies and a spaceship out of a science fiction movie.

As a TV camera records the scene, Dr. Ken LeDez is slid into one of two new hyperbaric chambers set to go into operation at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's Thursday. - Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Dr. Ken LeDez was almost beaming as he demonstrated one of Eastern Health's new monoplace - or single person - hyperbaric chambers for reporters on Thursday.

LeDez is the director of Eastern Health's hyperbaric medicine program.

The new chambers look like a cross between an incubator for premature babies and a spaceship out of a science fiction movie.

The device is used to treat smoke inhalation, decompression illness experienced by deep sea divers - often called "the bends" - and a number of other medical ailments.

The pressurized chamber allows patients to breathe 100 per cent oxygen at three times the standard atmospheric pressure.

Elective treatments last about 90 minutes. But serious conditions such as smoke inhalation can take four or five hours of treatment. People with "the bends" may have to spend more than twice that in the chamber, depending on the severity of their condition.

Before LeDez demonstrated how the chamber works, Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski held a news conference to announce hyperbaric medical services will resume on Monday after almost a year.

Late last spring, hyperbaric services were suspended after an equipment malfunction and a lack of human resources.

The health authority had hoped to resume the services in January.

But another malfunction of the 40-year old multiplace - or multi-person - chamber led the authority to buy two new single-person chambers. The original machine is still being repaired.

While the older chamber could fit up to four people inside, including medical staff when necessary, Kaminski said the new machines only have room for one adult.

"It's less complex to operate, however, so it can treat critically ill patients and require fewer staff than the multiplace chamber," she said.

Kaminski also said the number of illnesses which hyperbaric medicine can treat are expanding and Eastern Health is one of only a few health authorities in the country to have the service.

LeDez told reporters about 20 people are waiting for treatments to resume.

Even though staff have been trained on the new machines, he said only one person will get treatment per day until he and his staff become completely comfortable with their operation.

"We're in a learning phase with the new equipment and getting our staff familiar (with it)," he said. "We're going to proceed very cautiously."

The two new chambers are currently housed in a specialized trailer outside of the Health Sciences Centre and will be put into service Monday. The larger chamber will eventually come back online in a few months, and the two new ones will eventually be moved inside the hospital.

When all machines are running, it will increase the overall service at Eastern Health, and be able to potentially treat up to six people at one time.

The province also announced $413,000 in this year's budget to hire the extra staff needed to help run the service. When asked if the malfunction of the original chamber was a blessing in disguise, LeDez said he wouldn't put it that way.

"I had been telling Eastern Health for some time that I really (thought) it would be a good idea to have some monoplace chambers," he said. "I think the malfunction helped to stimulate some incentive to go that route."

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Health Sciences Centre

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Recent comments

  • Donny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    In 2010, you have to leave the hospital and go out in the parking lot to get medical treatment. Too funny! Will the new handicap bathrooms be located in the lot as well? Good to see Vicki thinking outside the box!

  • Addy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Dr. Ledez certainly is beaming. I know this is a passionate topic for him and I am glad the service is once again back online...whether it be a trailer or in a basement etc. who cares, people are getting treated, that is the focus.

    OT...love the comments back and forth. it is nice for a morning chuckle from far away

  • amazed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Donny, you moron, do you even read the articles? The previous units will be online in a few months and the new units will be moved inside. There needs to be room for this stuff, and when things are finished there will be more hyperbaric options than there were before. Then when a person needs high 02 for any medical needs, a diver getting the bends, some poor bugger who nearly died while trying to kill themselves with carbon monoxide, we have lots of capablity. To bad there is no treatment for idiots like yourself who obviously suffer from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

  • M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    I've seen how the Hyperbaric Chamber works, I am thrilled it's back up and running again, the new chambers will benefit so many people!!! Dr. Ledez is a wonderful doctor! Donny, do your research on how it works, it will amaze you!!

  • derm
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Donny, one look at the community that you are from and its easy to see why you are a few fries short of a happy meal.

  • Donny
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    In 2010, you have to leave the hospital and go out in the parking lot to get medical treatment. Too funny! Will the new handicap bathrooms be located in the lot as well? Good to see Vicki thinking outside the box!

  • Addy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    Dr. Ledez certainly is beaming. I know this is a passionate topic for him and I am glad the service is once again back online...whether it be a trailer or in a basement etc. who cares, people are getting treated, that is the focus.

    OT...love the comments back and forth. it is nice for a morning chuckle from far away

  • amazed
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Donny, you moron, do you even read the articles? The previous units will be online in a few months and the new units will be moved inside. There needs to be room for this stuff, and when things are finished there will be more hyperbaric options than there were before. Then when a person needs high 02 for any medical needs, a diver getting the bends, some poor bugger who nearly died while trying to kill themselves with carbon monoxide, we have lots of capablity. To bad there is no treatment for idiots like yourself who obviously suffer from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

  • M
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    I've seen how the Hyperbaric Chamber works, I am thrilled it's back up and running again, the new chambers will benefit so many people!!! Dr. Ledez is a wonderful doctor! Donny, do your research on how it works, it will amaze you!!

  • derm
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Donny, one look at the community that you are from and its easy to see why you are a few fries short of a happy meal.