KAIULA-KONA, Hawaii — Hawaii’s only means of treatment for divers with decompression sickness is remaining closed through November.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa announced Oct. 20 that its public hyperbaric treatment center is closed due to “unforeseen circumstances,” West Hawaii Today reported.
Decompression sickness, also known as the bends, is the result of gases like nitrogen forming bubbles in tissue, which can happen as surrounding pressure drops when divers come up to the surface. In the most severe cases, it can be life-threatening.
The nearest public hyperbaric center to Hawaii is on Guam, or the mainland.
“Clearly there’s a huge community of divers here and Oahu and Maui – and I’m going to assume Kauai as well,” said Bo Pardau, a retired dive instructor. “And without a functioning hyperbaric chamber, it just puts us into a terrible situation.”
The university plans to update the public on repairs by the beginning of December.
“The University of Hawaii is committed to seeking a solution for emergency treatment for diving illness,” said Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine. “This is a top priority. We know how important the facility is to the dive community and the state and we apologize for the current situation.”
Hyperbaric chambers operated by the Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aren’t public, said Dave Pence, diving safety officer for the University of Hawaii.