In a meeting with tour operators on Tuesday May 28th, it was revealed that services of the recompression chamber will now be offered to all dive operators of San Pedro Town in the case of a dive accident, regardless of their insurance coverage. The service is being given to all tour operators working with a dive shop associated with SSS Network. In order to access this service the tour operators must register with SSS Network; upon registration they will receive a member card that will identify the diver as eligible to receive full services of the recompression chamber and treatment.
According to Paul Moreno, Regional Supervisor of the SSS Recompression Chamber, the purpose of this proposal is to ensure the safety of Belize’s dive operators. “We are offering the tour guides operating out of San Pedro and eventually Belize the added benefit to be covered by our chamber facility in case of an accident, regardless of their primary or secondary insurance. So the added benefit is that any diver, out with an affiliated operator who ended up getting sick in the water can come to us and receive a full treatment, free of charge,” stated Moreno in an interview with The San Pedro Sun.
SSS Network provides its service mostly to professional divers that come to Belize to participate in sports diving. Previously SSS Network encouraged divers to have an insurance policy that covered decompression treatment. This insurance can be rather costly here in Belize, so many of our local divers were not eligible to receive this coverage. “In the past, we encouraged dive shops to push their divers to have the added insurance. We now understand that it might have been an unnecessary burden on the dive guides, especially given the fact that they do most of their dives here in Ambergris Caye. Because we are the only providers here in Belize, it is an extra service and so we will take care of the divers,” said Moreno.
This new bond that is being formed between the recompression chamber and dive guides is extremely important to strengthen diving in Belize. “The divers need to have the security that if anything happens while in the water, the first priority for the guides is to take care of their clients. Guides have some risk they need to have the peace of mind that if they get sick there is a recompression facility here that will treat them,” stated Moreno.
As part of the outreach and education campaign, the chamber will also be providing courses and seminars to educate dive guides on diving medicine. The skills taught will be beneficial in strengthening the diving community. To obtain further information on the chamber or to register, visit the SSS Recompression Chamber located in font of Maya Island Air or call 226-2851/226-3195.
Ambergris Hopes Clinic, in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, this week boasts the services of hyperbaric medicine treatment as it inaugurated a new building in its compound that houses the island’s second Hyperbaric Chamber. Official inauguration was held on Friday, May 15, 2015.
In its first phase of expanding services and facilities, Ambergris Hopes Clinic sees the addition of hyperbaric medicine which will not only provide more sense of safety in the tourism sector but also provide additional treatment to various other conditions that can benefit from hyperbaric medicine.
Working along with Dr. Gonzalez is Dr. Miguel Allison Del Valle who stressed that while the primary use of the chamber is for diving-related incidents, it can be used for treating other medical conditions dealing with diabetes, ulcers and brain issues such as strokes. Both doctors stress the importance for such a piece of equipment on an island that strongly depends on tourism.
“The hyperbaric chamber assures a sense of security and safety to all who visit our island,” commented Dr. Daniel. “We will be visiting dive shops and resorts to educate them about the service we provide with the chamber so that they know about the reliable and essential services we have to offer with its addition to the clinic.”
Dr. Daniel Gonzalez, who owns Ambergris Hopes Clinic, is working on providing a 24-hour medical facility, the first private clinic on the island to do so. Once complete the clinic will also be providing additional medical services from maternity to dentistry and also offer X-Ray and ultrasound. The expansion will allow for more doctor offices, recovery rooms and an operating room as well. Attending the inauguration event was local businessman Corry McDermott who made a donation of $5,000 towards the second phase of the clinic expansion which includes a diagnostic center with X-Ray and ultrasound, and a maternity ward.
Dr. Danny, as he is affectionately called by islanders, has big dreams for his clinic and his goal is to provide excellent medical services to the community at affordable prices. His hopes is to also acquire an ambulance to assist in medical emergencies.
What would we do without it?
by Lydia Chuc
Several weeks ago I was on a shallow dive at Hol Chan and suffered an arterial gas embolism because I surfaced too quickly. I received treatment at the San Pedro Hyperbaric Chamber and was tended to by Antonio Guerrero, the hyperbaric chamber technician, and Dr. Otto Rodriguez. My treatment went well and I was cared for with the greatest compassion and professionalism. Thanks for everything Antonio and Dr, Otto.
After spending the better part of three days receiving treatments I was out to give up on diving for good. (Well not quite, but almost.) I also spent a great deal of time talking to Antonia and Dr. Otto. "When the chamber was brought to San Pedro in 1989 by Sub-Aquatic Safety Services I was very skeptical about it," recalled Dr. Otto. I did not know very much out the treatment for decompression sickness and there was not very much about it in our medical text books." He said that he visited the chamber office when they were setting up the equipment and was fascinated. Almost ten years later, Dr. Otto is the doctor stationed at the hyberbaric chamber office.
One of the most interesting questions that came up during our discussions was, how did people who suffer from embolisms and decompression sickness receive treatment before the hyperbaric chamber was brought to San Pedro in 1989? According to Dr. Otto, there were not many people diving before 1989 and the few cases that he saw were transferred to Cancun or Houston where there was a chamber. He said that he knew of people who couldn't afford to travel to the states to receive treatment or who refused treatment and are today permanently crippled, walk with a limp or have limited use of certain limbs. Antonio mentioned that she knew of a man from X'calak who had decompression sickness and never got treatment. I see him some times limping around San Pedro" she said, "he visits sometime."
During the height of tourist season no less than two persons per month are treated for either decompression sickness or embolisms. During the off season there are months when there are no patients at all. (Which is good.) Dr. Otto said that the biggest problem they face is trying to operate the chamber without the full cooperation of the dive shops in Belize. "Some dive shops don't pay the $1.00 per tank monthly fee or they don't pay a dollar for every tank," explained Antonia. "To be a member of the $1 Per Tank Diving Chamber Affiliation you are required to pay the fee. Sometimes we know that they make a lot more dives than they say but what can we do?" The dollar ensures that if a diver, diving with a dive shop which is a member of the affiliation, becomes affected with decompression sickness, treatment will be provided free of cost. The hyperbaric chamber staff would like to encourage dive shops to pay the fee and protect their staff and customers from unfortunate mishaps.
If you have qualms about not paying the dollar per tank just think about all the people who get treated every year for decompression sickness or embolisms at the chamber. Think about all the people you could help by being a member of the affiliation. Better yet, consider what would happen if one day you were injured in a diving accident, wouldn't you want to have treatment readily available to you? For more information about the hyperbaric chamber please call 2852.