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History of HBOT in South Africa

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) started in South Africa in the 60s in Groote Schuur (Cape Town), Addington (Durban) and National Hospital (Bloemfontein).

In 1965, the South African Navy installed a small 1,5 meter diameter Draeger multiplace recompression chamber at the Institute for Aviation Medicine in support of its two altitude chambers. It was mainly used to treat occasional divers with DCI. From 1993, Dr Frans Cronje started providing a regular hyperbaric therapy service in Pretoria. A larger, 1,8 meter diameter, six-man chamber encouraged the modern evolution of clinical hyperbaric therapy in South Africa.

In 1992 the Southern African Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Association (SAUHMA) was formed by physicians interested in diving and hyperbaric medicine. The Association has followed the UHMS safety and medical recommendations and supports the UHMS HBO Committee’s list of indications. In 2011 the 9th SAUHMA Conference was held.

In 2003 the University of Stellenbosch (near Cape Town) established a division of underwater and hyperbaric medicine within the Department of Community Health. Under the leadership of Dr W.A.J.(Jack) Meintjes, the University has developed BScMedSc (Hons) courses in diving and hyperbaric medicine that met the training standards of the Diving Medical Advisory Committee (DMAC). The program will be available worldwide through already known channels such as the Oxynet Website (www.oxynet.org) and will meet the current European Standards for Post Graduate Education in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine

Over the past 30 years, HBO has continued to grow in acceptance and application in South Africa. Although funding through medical aids continues to be challenging, HBOT takes place in the academic hospitals of Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Bloemfontein. HBOT remains a Prescribed Minimum Benefit in the Medical Schemes Act for the treatment of gas gangrene.