The board of the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) has responded to the whistleblower allegations confirming that it has been managing a refurbished 1966 Draeger hyperbaric chamber, donated by the Dutch Navy to the Saba Island Government, since March 1990.
The SCF letter alluded to challenges in securing funding to maintain the chamber and emphasised how “SCF staff volunteered their services as trainers, tenders and drivers for the chamber, which could have been spent on nature conservation projects instead.”
The foundation said “the advancement of diving technology and safer diving practices,” reduced the likelihood of dive-related accidents and that the fees collected from dive emergency treatments did not cover the upkeep of the chamber. This led to the decision to impose “a hyperbaric chamber fee of US $1 per dive” in 2007, after a hyperbaric risk assessment by Divers Alert Network (DAN).
The statement also quotes a maintenance estimate given by Reimers, an accredited firm in this field, amounting to “US $49,000 for work needed to keep the chamber operational.” Unable to cover such cost the SCF “was thus forced to close the chamber in 2009.”
Despite this apparently undisclosed decision, “the collection of the hyperbaric chamber fee per dive continued,” states the letter released by the SCF, “with the guarantee that dive emergency treatments would continue, using the chamber at the Saba University School of Medicine.”
The statement does not offer precise dates, but it acknowledges that “after several months, the medical school agreement degraded because of the school’s concerns of legal liability and a lack of qualified physicians willing to operate the chamber under the conditions at the time. Therefore, the collection of hyperbaric chamber fees was ceased on March 1, 2011.”
The letter says SCF seeks “a long-term solution for the hyperbaric chamber at Fort Bay.” SCF also disclosed that “the Island Government has decided to establish a hyperbaric committee to evaluate the status quo and come up with a workable plan.” It said that “any assets, remaining funds and expertise will of course flow into the new initiative to re-establish a working hyperbaric chamber on Saba, with guidance by DAN and under the supervision of trained medical personnel.”
The statement does not mention who are the members of this initiative, their expertise, the legal grounding for the new entity or its registration. It states that “responsibilities have to be shared and solutions have to be elaborated, instead of pointing fingers and trying to blame someone for this situation.”
The letter asks for “recognition for the voluntary work rendered by so many persons, locals and foreigners alike to keep the Fort Bay chamber running for almost 20 years.” It said the non-profit company has “been audited positively for all finances, including this issue of the chamber,” and that “any fraud or misuse of funds would have been disclosed long before.”
Source: “The Daily Herald” 2012-06-05 (29)