Hyperbaric unit opens at hospital

New unit provides additional comfort, personalized care

TAYLOR — Oakwood Healthcare Inc. continued its investment in Oakwood Heritage Hospital with the recent addition of the new Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine.

The $1.5 million expansion at the hospital replaces the temporary, single-chamber hyperbaric oxygen therapy unit with four individualized chambers that provide increased patient comfort and access, said Robert Jones, director of operations at the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine, allowing the hospital to serve patients it hadn’t been able to serve before.

“If you can lay down — which most people can — you can get treated here,” said Jones. “We are able to help patients now that are completely bed-ridden.”

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment that uses 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized setting to promote and improve healing in chronic wounds. It helps promote healing in a number of ways, said Dr. Bindesh Patel, the lead physician at the hyperbaric oxygen therapy unit at Oakwood Heritage Hospital.

“It helps stimulate and promote the creation of new blood vessels. It helps promote the release of collagen, which is necessary for skin growth,” Patel said. “It helps white blood cells fight infection and it reduces swelling.”

The treatment dates back to the 1930s and is becoming more prevalent in main stream science. Oakwood has provided the service for more than six years, but the previous unit was a single-chamber one housed in a type of converted semi-truck trailer.

Inside, it resembled a modified airliner cabin, with 15 chairs spaced along the walls of the unit and a television at the end. Patients would enter the chamber together and receive the oxygen through hoods placed over their heads.

The new facility has four individualized chambers and room for two more, said Jones. There is also a new waiting area for family members and four new exam rooms.

The individualized chambers provide new benefits to patients, said Jonathan Rotella, president of NexGen Hyperbaric LLC, which oversaw the construction of the unit.

“There’s really a lot more patient privacy,” he said. “They’re individualized for the particular patient.”

Each chamber has its own flat-screen television and a NetFlix account, so patients can watch a movie or television show during their two-hour treatments. Those comforts are important considering an average patient can require 40 to 60 treatments, and often visit the hospital five to six times a week.

“The end result is that it’s going to do the same, but we believe these new four chambers will help tailor specifically to the individual and allow them to have their own space, with more amenities,” Patel said. “If we had to tailor the treatment to be a little longer or a little shorter or at a different ‘depth,’ we’re able to do that on an individual basis.”

The patient to technician ratio also has been reduced, from about 11-15:1 to about 2:1.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy facilities are becoming more widespread, but the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine has an advantage over many other facilities, he said.

“We have all the standards that a large hospital like Oakwood can bring to bear,” Jones said. “We have an unbelievably qualified and distinguished physician team that has very high standards in treatment. We have the best and brightest doctors as it relates to wound care. We can get patients what they need to heal.

“There are several different components that can make a wound heal. You want to make sure their nutrition is right; you want to make sure their metabolic state is right — there’s a lot to it. We’ve got all those different disciplines.”

The expansion is part of a three-year plan that eventually will see the investment of more than $31 million at the hospital, which was constructed in 1977 and purchased by Oakwood in 1989. Last fall, it opened its 12-unit Bone and Joint Unit.

Also planned are expansions and renovations to the surgical services unit, including expansion of the operating rooms and a new dedicated entrance and canopy.