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Regina woman forced out of province to receive post-radiation therapy

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A Regina woman who couldn’t receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help her heal from cancer radiation treatment in Saskatchewan has been sent to Alberta.

Saskatchewan’s only hyperbaric chamber in Moose Jaw has been closed since 2021, the province says it is working to accelerate the chamber’s re-opening.

Tamara Heppner packed her bags and left for Calgary this week where she will receive the hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“So right now she is actually going in her second dive or treatment at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary. So her first one went pretty well. I’m just happy that she’s in there,” Heppner’s son Brayden Dutchak said.

Heppner was hospitalized in December and was dismayed to learn that Saskatchewan’s only hyperbaric chamber in Moose Jaw has been closed since 2021. It’s because of a shortage of respiratory therapists.

“They’ve had since the middle of 2021 to figure this out and they’ve known about this prior that they were going to be losing somebody,” Dutchak said.

The government has agreed to cover travel costs to Calgary where Heppner will receive outpatient treatment for a month. The family is still pushing to have treatment made again available in Saskatchewan.

“We’ve inpatient treatment. We have outpatient treatment and we have outpatient treatment and we have out of luck treatment. Saskatchewan is not a third-world country and we shouldn’t be dealing with this,” Dutchak said.

In a letter to the family, the minister of rural and remote health suggested that the resumption of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a priority. The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) wants a full complement of four respiratory therapists before resuming service. It is currently one short.

The SHA is now considering resumption of at least partial service while the search for more therapists continues.

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