In 1970, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Province of Ontario, embarked upon an ambitious program to establish the first Canadian Underwater Park in the area of the tip of the Bruce Peninsula adjacent to Tobermory. This program, as well as the existence of many shipwrecks in a state of preservation and exceptionally clear waters, has led to the attraction of high numbers of divers to the vicinity. With this intensive diving program being carried out, there have inevitably been a significant number of diving accidents requiring the use of a recompression chamber. It is well known that the success of such treatment decreases rapidly with the time elapsed until the diver is recompressed. Aware of these facts, the Ministry felt that it had an obligation to establish a recompression chamber in conjunction with the underwater park, then called Fathom Five. One of the formidable obstacles to such a facility was provision of trained and knowledgeable staff.
In 1974, a doctor moved to Tobermory and shortly thereafter the Tobermory Health Clinic was established. This doctor was well versed in diving medical problems and was qualified to undertake the supervision of a recompression facility. The presence of medical staff and the existence of the medical clinic provided an answer to most of the difficulties the Ministry of Natural Resources had encountered. Together with the former Township of St. Edmunds (now Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula) funds were made available for the installation of a recompression facility on the site of the Tobermory Medical Clinic. After considerable work, the chamber arrived in Tobermory in January 1976.
The Tobermory Hyperbaric Facility was established in 1976, initially for the primary treatment of diving injuries related to the increased diving activities in the pristine waters of Georgian Bay. The facility supported liquid oxygen storage delivery facilities, gas mixing and double-blind gas delivery, a washroom, and waiting area.
Although we often indicate we are “diving” the chamber, there is no water used and the hyperbaric chamber remains stationary and dry. In addition to treating dive related injuries, the hyperbaric chamber is also used for hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) for conditions recognized by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. An example of some of these conditions include, but are not limited to, osteonecrosis, osteoradionecrosis, carbon monoxide poisoning, ischemic wounds, burns, and gas gangrene. The facility is also frequently used for diver and medical personnel education and diving and medical research.