Mindanao’s first Hyperbaric Chamber facility up by October

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 June) – Mindanao’s first Hyperbaric Chamber facility will rise by October this year at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), a move that will strengthen the Davao region’s position as a premier diving destination in the Philippines, the regional tourism director said.

At the sidelines of the groundbreaking rites on Saturday for the one-floor building behind the Mindanao Heart Center, Robert Alabado, regional director of the Department of Tourism (DOT)  told Mindanews that the absence of this facility is one of the deterrents why they could not fully promote the diving sites off the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS). He said safety is a primary consideration of tour operators, most especially from the neighboring countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

He said the hyperbaric chamber will give divers assurance that there would be an efficient medical support as they explore the depths of the diving sites.

(L to R) Tourism assistant secretary Art Boncato Jr., Southern Philippine Medical Center (SPMC) chief of hospital Leopoldo Vega, Department of Tourism (DOT) 11 director Robert Alabado III, and Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) director Robert Teo lead the groundbreaking of the Hyperbaric Chamber facility within the SPMC compound on Saturday, June 25, 2016. The P2.5 million building will be completed in four months. Photo courtesy of DOT XI
(L to R) Tourism assistant secretary Art Boncato Jr., Southern Philippine Medical Center (SPMC) chief of hospital Leopoldo Vega, Department of Tourism (DOT) 11 director Robert Alabado III, and Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) director Robert Teo lead the groundbreaking of the Hyperbaric Chamber facility within the SPMC compound on Saturday, June 25, 2016. Construction of the  P2.5 million building is expected to be finished  in four months. Photo courtesy of DOT XI

The DOT press briefer said hyperbaric chambers are airtight-encased devices used for treating decompression sickness and other dive-related conditions arising from exposure to different mixture of pure oxygen and natural air at different atmospheric pressures.

“The Hyperbaric Chamber System is very important in treating scuba divers who are suffering from decompression sickness, a condition arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside a depressurization,” it said.

It explained that the bubbles can be formed inside and move to any part of the body, causing pain in the joints, rashes, paralysis, or death.

Alabado said that when the construction is finished in four months or by October, they can finally market Samal Island as one of the best sites for microphotography, which is done taking detailed shots of the tiny underwater critters and corals.

Samal, he said, is a potential for microphotography. We can finally market it as one of the best sites for microphotography,” he said.

Robert Teo, director of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) said they have procured since last year four hyperbaric chambers that have already been delivered to Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Batangas, Bohol, and Cebu.

The still functioning hyperbaric chamber in Cebu will be transferred here once the construction of  P2.5 million building at the SPMC compound is completed, he said.

“When we market diving as a tourist activity, there is a requirement because diving can be dangerous if improper procedures are made. We are going to lessen the risks by having an equipment such as this chamber. Our tourists will be assured that they are in safe hands,” Tourism assistant secretary Art Boncato Jr. said.

He added the facility can also help the SPMC boost medical operations as they can use it to treat patients suffering from major wounds caused by diabetes and radiation injury due to its high pressure and high oxygen content which accelerates the healing.

“In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. Your blood carries oxygen throughout your body. This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing,” the DOT press briefer added.

Dr. Leopoldo Vega, SPMC chief said the city had a hyperbaric chambers eight years ago but it closed down when owners decided to transfer the facility to Manila due to lack of market.

Vega believes the hospital can sustain its operations for the Hyperbaric Center with the stronger tourism promotion of the DOT. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)