FUNDRAISERS for the hyperbaric chamber will be relieved to hear news of a new three-year government funding deal for the facility.
The Department of Infrastructure announced that it had signed an agreement to support the Kevin Gray Memorial Trust Hyperbaric Chamber.
The memorandum of understanding gives emergency treatment facilities and medical support to the department’s seven-strong dive team whose role is to inspect, maintain and repair the department’s underwater infrastructure.
In return the government is supporting the chamber with a £12,000 annual donation along with technical support, materials and labour up to a value of £3,000 per year.
The Department of Health provides £100,000 but the chamber needs around £150,000 a year to survive.
The charity has to raise the remainder.
Hyperbaricist David Downie said: ‘It is still going to be hard next year. We have to rely on individual donations. We just about survive every year.’
Around 50 patients are treated in the chamber every day.
Most GPs and some Noble’s Hospital consultants refer patients to the chamber.
Two years ago, chamber chiefs warned that it may be forced to close if it did not receive more government funding.
It has been operated by The Kevin Gray Memorial Trust since 1984, following the donation of a single chamber after the death of the local commercial diver.
In 2009, the Friends of the Hyperbaric Chamber group was set up to assist with fundraising.
The facility, near the fire station on Peel Road in Douglas, has a six-person chamber and a 12-person one.
It is also used in the treatment of badly injured road traffic accident victims and has been used to aid the recovery of TT riders who have been involved in crashes.
For divers the chamber enables patients to breathe pure oxygen under pressure which forces out harmful nitrogen that may have entered the blood stream during a dive. It is the only treatment for decompression sickness – also known as the bends.
The pressurised oxygen has also been found to help repair damaged tissue and organs by re-establishing compromised blood supply.
Department member Graham Cregeen MHK said: ‘The hyperbaric chamber and staff do a fantastic job so I am delighted that I have been able to reach this new agreement with them.
‘Our dive team work in an arduous and dangerous environment and it is a comfort to us all that this facility is available on the island if we need it.’
The agreement also allows the department’s team access to similar chambers in Ireland or the UK if the Isle of Man hyperbaric chamber were not available in an emergency.