POLITICS

Opposition calls on government to keep hyperbaric chamber in Moose Jaw hospital

03/26/2015 02:22 EDT | Updated 05/26/2015 05:59 EDT
REGINA - A Saskatchewan woman is calling on the government to keep what she calls a vital piece of medical equipment in the province.

Donna Hodel says radiation treatments that saved her from cancer left her with permanent jaw problems, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy would be a "last resort" to preserve her jaw bone and teeth after dental work.

"If I didn't, it could result in my jaw bone dying and it would have to be removed," she said.

She added that her dentist has told her that in the future she may need to use a hyperbaric chamber, which involves resting in a pressurized chamber filled with oxygen.

The hospital in Moose Jaw is home to the only machine in the province but its future is uncertain.

The government has said it's unlikely the chamber will be housed in the city's new hospital, which is under construction.

Opposition NDP Leader Cam Broten, who raised the issue in question period, said it's the only machine of its kind between Edmonton and Toronto and should stay in Saskatchewan.

"This government has provided no guarantees and no plans about how this important service will stay in Saskatchewan to help patients," he said.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan said the government is looking at possibly moving it to an out-patient facility or referring patients to other provinces for treatment.

"We're looking at what the estimates would be to add it to a different space," he said.

He added that the government doesn't typically cover travel costs when people go out of province for treatment.

Hodel said she is worried she might have to travel for treatment.

"I'd do what I have to do, but it's not great," she said. "There are a lot of people in this province who can't afford a trip like that so where does that leave them?"

The NDP previously brought forward the case of a Saskatchewan couple who used the machine after they suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

Gail and Jim Sack said they were within an hour of death at their home in North Battleford when they were discovered unconscious by a family member in January.

They credited the emergency response and treatment with the hyperbaric chamber for saving their lives.

"The service needs to be there for those who could need it," Broten said.