Prince of Wales’ Hyperbaric Unit celebrates 50 years

Current and former staff and patients commemorated 50 years since the Department of Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine officially opened its original Hyperbaric Unit at Prince Henry Hospital at an event last week.
Prince of Wales Hospital’s (POWH) Hyperbaric Unit is the only hospital-based, comprehensive hyperbaric facility in NSW, providing therapy to patients across the state, ACT and the Pacific.  

Jennie Barry, General Manager, POWH and Sydney/Sydney Eye Hospital, said the old chamber moved from Prince Henry Hospital to its current location in 1996, and that a new state-of-the-art chamber was installed at POWH in 2010.
“Over the years, we have seen the Department go from strength-to-strength – as far as we know, it has the largest rectangular medical hyperbaric chamber in the world,” Ms Barry said.
“Celebrating 50 years of this excellent state-wide service is an opportune time to recognise this team, who provide between four and five thousand treatments every year, caring for hundreds of patients.
“I’d like to thank the staff for their efforts and unique expertise, and acknowledge the important relationship the Department has fostered since its inception with the Royal Australian Navy – particularly the Submarine and Underwater Medical Unit based at HMAS Penguin in Mosman.
“Our Hyperbaric Unit actively participates in teaching and providing experience for Navy medical personnel. In return, the Navy provides places on the military run dive courses for our civilian hyperbaric doctors in training,” Ms Barry said.
Joining the event was Gabrielle Upton, Member for Vaucluse; Michael Still, SESLHD Board Chair, and Tobi Wilson, Chief Executive, SESLHD. Also in attendance was Dr Jan Lehm, Director; Dr Robert Turner, Director of Anaesthetics; Professor Michael Bennett, former Medical Director, nursing and admin staff and technicians as well as two former patients who shared their stories.
“I had the privilege of viewing the 80-tonne hyperbaric chamber when it first opened in 2012,” Ms Upton said.
“It is wonderful to return to Prince of Wales to hear first-hand how the purpose-built facility significantly increased the hospital’s capacity for hyperbaric medicine, strengthening its reputation as a leading provider of care, both in NSW and around the world.”
The unit provides hyperbaric oxygen therapy which involves breathing pure oxygen in our pressurised room or chamber. The increased oxygen levels in your blood stream help to heal damaged tissue that has a poor blood supply from a previous injury. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat:

  •  Diving related injuries e.g. decompression illness also called 'The Bends' 
  •  Soft tissue radiation injury e.g. radiotherapy wounds or damage to the bladder or bowel related to radiation therapy
  •  Osteoradionecrosis or bone death, a rare side-effect of radiation therapy 
  •  Chronic, non-healing wounds e.g. diabetic or hypoxic wounds or venous wounds
  •  Necrotising fasciitis or gangrene
  •  Some hearing or eye emergencies e.g. sudden hearing loss, pterygium
  •  Gas-related injuries (eg carbon monoxide poisoning and air embolism). 

For more information, visit the POWH website.

 Jennie Barry, Janet McDonald AO, Michael Still, Gabrielle Upton MP, Tobi Wilson, Dr Jan Lehm at the event