A little-known fact to many divers in the USA is that despite the country’s large number of hyperbaric chambers, finding emergency treatment can be difficult in a diving emergency. The situation has worsened since the start of the pandemic, as facilities have been overwhelmed coping with patients.
To illustrate the point, consider that there are around 1,300 hyperbaric chambers in the USA. Currently, only a minuscule amount (less than 10%) are offering emergency treatment to divers. Even then, some of these facilities only provide emergency treatments irregularly, making dealing with diving emergencies more difficult. If you wonder what the bulk of the chambers in the USA are doing, the vast majority of their time is taken up dealing with hyperbaric wound healing therapy.
As a result of this dire situation in the USA, the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society is calling for action to be taken to improve divers’ access to hyperbaric emergency care. Specifically, UHMS is calling for:
- Direct federal or state-level grants aimed explicitly at emergency hyperbaric treatment.
- Legal liability indemnification for facilities providing emergency hyperbaric treatment for divers.
- Incentivizing military facilities to provide emergency treatment for civilians.
In addition, the UHMS is calling on the government to provide funding for organizations like the Divers Alert Network which provide 24/7 assistance for divers requiring emergency hyperbaric therapy.