Thanks to NZU for seeking out this information...
Professor Gorman asked me to draw your attention to the following media release:
Although hyperbaric facilities are used to treat a wide range of health conditions, the major reason for their operation in New Zealand is to provide the emergency treatment of injured (compressed gas and breath-hold) divers. This treatment is sometimes life saving and frequently prevents long term impairments that are both disabling and expensive.
The treatment of injured divers is paid for by the ACC. Those patients referred from the public health system are funded by their host DHBs. Some private insurance funding also occurs.
The hyperbaric network in New Zealand is very limited and the service is consequently highly vulnerable. There are only three hyperbaric units (The Navy’s Slark Hyperbaric Unit in Auckland – the SHU; a privately owned facility at Quay Park, Auckland – Hyperbaric Health; and the Canterbury DHB facility). The SHU is the only facility that can provide the full range of conventional diver treatment regimens. In addition to a number of doctors who have a special interest, and after the retirement of Associate Professor Mike Davis (Christchurch), there are only two specialists in diving medicine in active practice in New Zealand (Professor Des Gorman and Associate Professor Simon Mitchell).
The Navy is considering the future of the SHU and has particular concern about both their acceptance of a risk that they reasonably believe should belong to the Health Service and the funding of a replacement facility in the intermediate future. A closure of the SHU would have direct adverse consequence. (1) A life saving emergency treatment service for the entire North Island would rely on a single overseas-owned private provider. As such, unless the Government assumes the financial risk for this provider, service supply is not assured. (2) The SHU has treated an average of 30 injured recreational divers each year over the last decade. Among these, a good outcome for about five is contingent on the advanced capability of the SHU. Lesser, but relevant issues that impact on service quality include rotary wing access and the SHU is unique in respect to having the ability to “mate” to transportable recompression chambers. (3) There are a number of consequences for Navy, Air Force and other Government departments and services that are not discussed further here, but, which are germane to the overall impact of any closure.
The National Hyperbaric Network Group has been established to develop a national clinical network under the aegis of the National Health Board. The intent is develop a joint funding and operational venture with Navy to maintain the SHU within this network for the next five or so years while a definitive facility is established on an Auckland hospital campus as a public entity or as a public-private partnership.
It would be helpful if any letters of concern you or your groups have are addressed to the minister of Defence (Wayne Mapp) with a copy to the Chief of Navy (Rear Admiral Tony Parr).
Once again, thanks for your concern.
Dr Chris Sames
Hyperbaric Medical Officer