Busy year for Oban’s recompression chamber

Tritonia Scientific staff host a visit to the chamber from the Royal Navy’s Southern Diving Group in July 2019.

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Inside the Dunstaffnage hyperbaric chamber.

Oban recompression chamber experienced its busiest year in the last decade in 2019.

In total, 37 treatments were given to divers who had suffered some form of decompression illness, sometimes referred to as ‘the bends’.

The patients were predominantly recreational divers but treatment was also given to divers employed on fish farms, as shellfish harvesters and in civil engineering.

The chamber is located at the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratories in Dunbeg and is one of only three NHS-registered emergency treatment centres for decompression illness in Scotland, the others being in Orkney and Aberdeen.

It is also approved by the Royal Navy and the US Navy to support their operations when diving on the West Coast.

The facility is owned and managed by the diving company Tritonia Scientific Ltd. Its managing director, Dr Martin Sayer, said: ‘This increased level of activity confirms our decision to take over running the facility when it was threatened with closure in 2018.

‘It is difficult to know if there were any specific factors that caused this increase but maintaining a NHS-registered chamber on the west coast is obviously of vital importance to the many businesses that use, or are involved with, diving.’

Twenty four/seven cover is provided mainly by the core employees of Tritonia Scientific but with the assistance of an additional 14 casual staff. The medical element of the operation is facilitated through the Lorn Medical Centre involving doctors from that practice and the Lorn and Islands Hospital.

Dr Colin Wilson, Medical Director for the recompression chamber, added: ‘We have been recruiting to our on-call team over the past 18 months and the high number of treatments in 2019 has provided plenty of practical experience for these doctors as they continue their specialist training in
diving and hyperbaric medicine.’

There is a Scottish helpline for anyone involved with a diving incident and they should telephone 0345 408 6008 and ask for the hyperbaric doctor on call. Alternatively, the Oban unit can be alerted through the Coastguard on Channel 16.

More information on the signs and symptoms of decompression illness and what to do if you suspect decompression illness can be found on the website: