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'A key component:' Sask. firefighters disappointed in lack of hyperbaric chamber

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Saskatchewan firefighters are disappointed that the province’s only hyperbaric chamber has been shut down due to a hospital staffing shortage. It’s used to treat fire victims and cancer survivors. Firefighters have first hand knowledge of the need for the service.

Saskatchewan firefighters won a fight in 2015 to save the province’s only hyperbaric chamber at the Moose Jaw hospital. They’re disappointed that the service has been unavailable for two years because of a staffing shortage.

“We would like to see the facility up and running again. I think it’s a key component in health care within Saskatchewan,” said Lloyd Zwack with the Saskatchewan Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association.

The hyperbaric chamber feeds oxygen to fire victims and cancer survivors, facilitating quicker recovery. Tamara Heppner is in Regina Hospital and could benefit from the therapy.

“It was $600,000 in 2016 and they’re not using it so it’s a tragedy,” said Brayden Dutchak, Tamara Heppner’s son.

The government said the therapy is available out of province.

“Any time out of province travel is required for delivery of medical service, there is a process involved in the applications for those patients. To my knowledge, I haven’t been made aware of any applications with respect to the hyperbaric chamber,” said Tim McLeod, minister of rural and remote health.

The NDP believes transferring patients out of province is not the solution.

“In many cases they need multiple treatments of the hyperbaric chamber to be able to really make the healing happen and it just becomes so costly to travel out of province,” said NDP MLA Vicki Mowat.

Moose Jaw will need a full complement of four respiratory therapists before the hyperbaric chamber reopens. They’re still short one. Most are trained out of province and recruitment efforts continue.

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