Orkney Hyperbaric Chamber

16th July 2020

In response to the opening of Scottish lock down restrictions and resumption of diving in Scapa Flow, the local chamber issued the following notice:

Dear All,
As visiting recreational divers will shortly be making an appearance in Orkney again it seems sensible to keep you posted about the arrangements at OHT for treating divers (recreational & commercial) during the current coronavirus outbreak. 

The current policy of the OHT (Orkney Hyperbaric Trust) is that it will not recompress any person who displays any symptoms or history suggestive of coronavirus infection.  This policy has been put in place to protect OHT staff and to minimise the risk of transmission.  It is also the case that recompressing a diver with abnormal respiratory function will potentially require higher level respiratory support ie. a category 1 chamber.  As you are probably aware there is evidence that respiratory function and gas exchange is abnormal after Covid infection so it may be worth being aware of this should any of your divers have had infection during the outbreak. These divers are at higher risk of problems during a dive and should not be diving at all unless their respiratory function has been adequately assessed by a respiratory physician . 

All divers presenting to NHS Orkney and/or OHT will be assessed either by the paramedics in the ambulance or by the on-call diving Doctor.  Any diver “self-presenting” will not be allowed into the OHT building until they have first been assessed by the on-call diving Doctor, so we would emphasise the importance of following the established procedure that has worked well for many years, i.e. if at sea call UK Coastguard on VHF 16, if on land call the Balfour on 888000 and state diving emergency. Similarly any diver presenting to the surgery unannounced will not be seen without prior telephone assessment. This is the policy we currently have for all of our patients in order to minimise the risk of cross infection.

If a treatment is prescribed, procedures are in place at the OHT to protect all staff through the appropriate use of PPE, hand hygiene and social distancing.  Patients will be asked to follow the same procedures, again to reduce the risk of transmission. It is possible that in some circumstances we may treat with surface oxygen rather than recompression – all divers presenting will be assessed and the risks to them and staff considered in planning treatment.  

Only the patient will be allowed access to the building, unless the presence of others is requested by the on-call doctor or OHT staff. We will not normally allow buddies or other members of the dive group into the chamber building to minimise footfall.  

We appreciate that this all sounds formal but we have to manage our risks carefully. Orkney has been relatively fortunate to date but it is highly likely that we will be seeing visitors from communities with far higher levels of circulating virus and we must be alert to this. Asymptomatic carriage and spread of Covid is not impossible.

We would encourage you to pass this information on to your clients so that they can plan their diving accordingly.  

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you ave any questions about any of this. 

We hope everything goes well for you.

Best wishes