Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Baptist Hospital Chamber in Pensacola Readies for Oriskany

Hospital trains for Oriskany diving injuries
Sean Smith@PensacolaNewsJournal.com

The soon-to-be-sunk aircraft carrier Oriskany is expected to become a prime divers' playground, but Pensacola hospitals and emergency officials are bracing for dive injuries. Baptist Hospital will be the only local facility with a hyperbaric chamber to treat civilian dive injuries. The chamber at Pensacola Naval Air Station is for military divers.

The Baptist chamber, currently used to treat wounds and other ailments, will be ready for dive injuries by April or May, Dr. Kelli Wells said. The treatment of dive injuries is a very involved process that requires enhanced training as well as 24-hour staff, she said. "What we're doing is increasing the level of training," she said. "We'll treat dive injuries as they occur, but my real desire is that we get information out there to prevent the injuries." Currently, emergency crews divert dive-injury patients to hospitals in Mobile and Panama City, which each see about a dozen dive-related injuries a year.

The 32,000-ton, 888-foot long Oriskany, to be sunk before June 1, is expected to rest at about 210 feet down, 22 miles southwest of Pensacola Pass. The superstructure will be at about 60 feet and the flight deck at about 130 feet -- the limit for recreational divers.

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