THE first and only hyperbaric chamber in Mindanao located at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) is seen to help boost the influx of diving tourists in Mindanao.
Last March 8, the hyperbaric chamber was inaugurated in SPMC. It contains two chambers -- the multiple chamber, which can accommodate three patients and one technician at the same, and the mono chamber, with a capacity of only one patient at a time. These chambers are part of the four chambers acquired in 2013. The other three had already been distributed to Palawan, Cebu, and Batangas.
The acquisition of the facility was through a public bidding where it was finally awarded to Haux, a German company. The four hyperbaric chambers cost about P50 billion, funded by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza).
"This facility is used mainly for clinical purposes. Most of our soldiers would need hyperbaric treatment for difficult wounds. This is what we are going to use for difficult wounds here in the hospital. At the same time, it will also add value to the diving community because this is safety for them. If you have problems with diving accidents, that they call bends, we will place you here in the hyperbaric chamber so you can be cured of your decompression," said SPMC Chief Dr. Leopoldo J. Vega.
Decompression sickness is a risk that some divers have to face after diving. It is a condition arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside a depressurization. These bubbles, moving to any part of the body, may cause joint pains, rashes, paralysis, or even death.
The facility increases the level of oxygen of the patients by inhaling a higher pressure of oxygen while breathing normally. Both the patients suffering from highly-infected wounds and decompression would need a higher level of oxygen. For the wounded patients, higher oxygen would help with the wound-healing.
Doctor Fred Medina of the Carabao Divers said it lessens the risk of having a hyperbaric facility in Mindanao. It creates better security for the part of the divers as the first thing most divers look for in an island before diving is a hyperbaric facility.
As for diving, the multiple chamber is the most ideal as they would need assistance in case a seizure or something similar may occur in the middle of a session.
When asked if there are already incidents of decompression sickness among the divers in the region, Medina said he had firsthand encounters of even bringing a colleague to Cebu City only because there is no facility yet in Mindanao.
"There are so many unreported cases because the divers are in denial. Others think it's just a typical joint pain... One accident is one too many," Medina said.
He said many foreigners, specifically Chinese and Korean, are very much interested in the diving areas in Mindanao. They hope that more will come as the island region already has a hyperbaric facility ready.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Assistant Secretary Eden David said the chambers are there to signify that indeed Mindanao is ready and safe for divers.
Vega said the use of the facility will be very much welcome for everyone who would need it.
"Since this is a government institution, we have so many agencies that can help us out subsidize our patients. We have the Lingap program of the city government, we have the CSSDO, we have the Pagcor. We have other agencies. Of course, the hospital itself can subsidize especially for the military or the indigent patients," he said.
The hyperbaric chamber is targeted to be fully operational within three months, as the hospital is still currently hiring and training people to operate and manage the facilities. The facility is a joint project of Tieza, DOT, and SPMC.