The home of Moose Jaw’s new hyperbaric chamber was unveiled Friday morning.
Less than a year after the provincial government reversed course and decided that the oxygen therapy machine could remain in Moose Jaw, government officials including Premier Brad Wall, and Five Hills Health Region (FHHR) staff gave a tour of the new addition to the Wigmore hospital.
“We’ve been huge advocates for (the chamber) right back to 1997,” said Moose Jaw Fire Fighters Association president Gord Hewitt. He helped lead the charge of lobbyists trying to keep the hyperbaric chamber as a health care option in Moose Jaw.
The Fire Fighters Association has contributed funds to the operation of the hyperbaric chamber since the first one was set up in the Moose Jaw Union Hospital.
Hewitt said they believe firmly in the hyperbaric’s life-saving abilities.
“We’ve seen the benefit of it … you remember (last year) a 15-year old boy from rural Saskatchewan (Arcola) had his life saved by it.”
Premier Wall acknowledged the government’s initial decision in 2013 to not include the chamber in the new hospital was “a mistake”.
“Credit to the fire fighters in this community, credit to the (Health) Foundation, credit to the (Moose Jaw MLAs) Greg Lawrence and Warren Michelson, credit to the patients who came forward and said ‘here’s how I benefited from this’, who worked hard to tell us we should revisit the decision.”
Wall added he was “grateful to the (Moose Jaw Health Foundation) to help with the capital costs. We’re going to cover the operating costs, and it’s a great example of a community coming together.”
The Moose Jaw Health Foundation (MJHF) launched their fall campaign last September, with a goal of raising $2.3 million cover costs of a number of pieces of medical equipment, including the hyperbaric chamber. The money will also cover construction costs associated with building an addition on to the Wigmore hospital, which was almost finished at the time and opened in October.
The total cost of the hyperbaric chamber, construction and all, is “about $840-thousand” said MJHF executive director Kelly McElree. She added the new hyperbaric machine cost about $200,000.
Dr. George Miller said the chamber is “a resource for the province that was lacking before”.
The Moose Jaw physician is one of two local doctors trained in hyperbaric medicine and said the machine can be used to treat burns and carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Extra oxygen works in a variety of different ways,” Miller said. “This actually stimulates stem cells and we can actually get ingrowths of tissue by putting oxygen across the area. It can also treat infection.”
The new hyperbaric chamber has been fully tested, and will begin operation on Monday, March 7.