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Sask. family calling on province to restore hyperbaric chamber service following staff shortage shut down

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The family of a Regina woman is pleading for the province to restore its hyperbaric oxygen therapy services which are currently unavailable in Saskatchewan.

Tamara Heppner is being treated for internal bleeding in hospital, due to injuries sustained from chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Her family has been advised to seek therapy through a hyperbaric chamber.

There is only one unit in the entire province – located in Moose Jaw. However, the chamber is not currently operating due to a lack of qualified staff.

“This would allow healing, something that is desperately needed,” said Brayden Dutchak, Heppner’s son.

Calgary is the next closest centre with a hyperbaric chamber.

According to Duchak, his mother has been approved to use the chamber in Calgary, but she is currently in no condition to be traveling that far.

Treatment using a hyperbaric chamber is not a one time fix.

Heppner and her family would need to stay to use the chamber between 30 and 50 times. Meaning the trip presents a potentially large financial strain.

Dutchak said the entire situation has been stressful for his family.

In a statement to CTV News, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) revealed that the chamber has been unavailable since July of 2021.

There are currently two full-time respiratory therapists in Moose Jaw, with a third beginning work in 2024.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy will resume when a fourth respiratory therapist is hired.

However, Dutchak says the time is a luxury his family simply doesn’t have.

“She shouldn’t needlessly die because they can’t find somebody to hire to run the chamber.”

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