The Townsville Hospital
Hyperbaric Medicine Unit
 The largest decompression chamber in the Southern Hemisphere

In January 2001 an Australian designed and built Hyperbaric Chamber was
constructed in Coffs Harbor NSW by Fink Engineering Pty Ltd.
And moved by road to its present location
in Townsville North Queensland.

  Chamber specifications
 Total Length ..................... 13 meters
 Width .............................. 3.56 meters
 Max Height ................... 2.30 meters
 Weight ............................... 48 tons
 Weight of main door ............. 900kg
 Max Pressure Main Lock .... 220kpa or 22msw
 Max pressure Inner Lock .. 500kpa or 50msw
 Patient numbers .......... 12 main Lock/6 Inner Lock

To date this new chamber is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, and is now
providing valuable service to both the diving community and medical patients.

                 PC CONTROL
This new chamber is unique in that all primary operations are computer controlled, with full manual backup if required.
Depth, temperature, humidity, and surveillance are computer monitored and controlled.


To allow observation of all areas within the chamber, full color closed circuit television
  including audio is in operation as can be seen
 by the picture below.

Air pressure to the chamber is provided by two high volume air tanks and two low pressure compensators. The large tanks can be seen in the background with emergency high pressure gas bottles in the for ground. Closest is helium followed by medical air and finally at the end is medical oxygen. Now I know where to get some Helium for my rebreather in a hurry;-))
Specific gases such as oxygen, helium, nitrogen, and nitrox can be provided to the chamber.

The main oxygen supply comes from the hospital o2 generators.


Inside the entrance lock a fully functional flushable toilet is
provided for the comfort of both patients and nursing staff.


During a typical treatment of 1.5 hours, Patients will breathe 100% Oxygen and during treatment can be entertained by either reading, watching TV, video/DVD, or listening to music of their choice.
In this next picture (left) you can just see the nurses head sitting in a chair while the patient being treated is on the left and TV screen is in the foreground.

The medical team running this facility consists of the following staff


The above shot shows the opposite wall of the chamber without its covering and gas valves for the forward two Locks.

Cleaning is critical when operating in a oxygen high risk environment.
Because of this, cleaning staff need to be specially trained. Clothes that are worn in the chamber are cotton and special precautions in place, are strictly adhered to.
Because fire is such a high risk a water deluge system is in place as if a fire were to breakout in one of the chambers the operator would have a 10 second window to act. Because of this two large deluge tanks are fitted and fed with compressed air The water passes through a  100mm dia pipe under pressure dumping a huge quantity of water is seconds. The pictures below show the tanks and piping. And on the right shows temperature controls, closed circuit TV camera plus the one of the water nozzles used to smother a fire should one happen..
Because so much air is needed to operate the fire system plus the chamber air is pumped from two large compressors housed in a special positive pressure room. The output of each compressor is 64 liters of clean breathing air per second. The compressors are rotated weekly and one is always on standby should there be a mechanical failure.
A positive pressure room is used to ensure the compressors are properly cooled in our tropical climate and air is forced through each unit before being exhausted outside.
All power to the chamber is 24 volts DC and the computer system running the chamber
has a one hour UPS backup should there be a power failure of the main generators
 in the hospital grounds.
Coupled with this is the manual over ride system which enables the Technician
to take complete control of the chamber and all its operations.
If this does accure or you have to get out for any reason most treatment tables
can be aborted and the nurse and patient can be back on the surface in 1:20 seconds

               GAS MONITORING
 This picture show gas monitoring of each Lock.
 Consisting of two oxygen monitors and one Co2
 monitor. Flow meters are also used to ensure
 correct gas is being fed to the Lock.
 There is one of these panels for each Lock.


This picture shows a close up of the computer
screen displaying an actual profile being run
on a bent diver while I was present.

The computer also controls the gas mixtures
and flush through of the chamber.
This is done by air dumps controlled by
compressed air which is linked to the computer.
All exhaust gases are vented to the outside via
a collection manifold below the valves.


Gas in is also computer controlled here you
can see the three sensor panels and solenoid operated addition valves used to inject the right quantity of air, helium, or oxygen.

              MANUAL CONTROL
This shot shows the manual over-ride system
with basic gas in gas out controls and gas
mixture monitoring. To the right hand side
you can also see one of the small air locks used
to ferry food, medication, and liquids plus anything
else that may need to be passed in and out of the
chamber during a treatment.

Each door weighs approx 900kg so you can imagine they have to be able to open easily but at the same time make a good air tight seal.
The solution is quite simple but very effective by using a special rubber seal and using the pressure inside the chamber to make the seal on the door.
This has the added safety bonus as the doors cannot be opened unit pressure is equal on both sides of the door.

This concludes the tour of the largest Decompression Chamber in the Southern Hemisphere
Special thanks to the team at the Hyperbaric unit in Townsville Hospital
for their patience with my questions and photography and
also Fink Engineering Pty Ltd.

Copyright©2001,2002 Tubbies Rebreather Pages

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