Dive Master Insurance says that resident divers raised concerns with it a year ago, but describes its subsequent attempts to discuss the matter with the States of Guernsey's Health & Social Services Department (HSSD) as “disappointing”.

A hyperbaric facility was provided at no charge on Guernsey for many years, but when it closed the state was required to maintain cover for the many commercial divers working there, particularly in St Peter Port harbour. A new 2m chamber was therefore installed in Guernsey’s Princess Elizabeth Hospital in 2016, and for the first time charges were imposed.

Commercial divers have to pay a £150 daily stand-by charge when diving. Should they or any recreational diver require treatment, however, this is charged at a flat rate of £30,000, regardless of the number of treatments required.

Dive Master's concerns have come to a head “not so much because of the cost, but because the chamber doesn’t have its own clinical director on site,” Managing Director Bob Archell told Divernet.

If the chamber is needed it is operated by non-specialist hospital staff, with advice available from DDRC Healthcare on the UK mainland.

“It’s an unusual set-up, more usually found with offshore facilities such as oil-rigs for commercial divers – but commercial and recreational diving are two very different activities,” said Archell. “Commercial divers are constantly monitored and supervised, and medically assessed, unlike recreational divers. That’s why we feel that proper medical triage on-site is essential.”

According to the HSSD there have been four treatments involving the chamber since it was set up - and all involved recreational divers. Two were paid for under standard travel-insurance policies; one was for an uninsured diver, with a means of payment since agreed; and the other is the subject of a continuing dispute.

“We’ve only ever withdrawn cover three times – in Australia in the 1990s and in Cyprus in 2012,” said Archell.

In Dive Master’s statement to policy-holders – some 50 of whom are based in Guernsey – it said that it had made its decision reluctantly but considered the fixed-fee charge “non-typical or customary when compared to charges for similar treatments in mainland Europe”.

Dive Master recently teamed up with two other major specialist insurers, Diver Alert Network (DAN) and AquaMed, to form the Global Association of Diving Assistance Providers (GADAP).

One of GADAP’s remits is to examine what might be regarded as billing anomalies in treatments for recreational divers, and Archell says the other members have given “100% backing” to Dive Master’s move, though they are still understood to be providing cover at present.

Dive Master says it is investigating alternative arrangements for its policy-holders: “I’m confident that we should be well on the way to having a good interim solution so we can soon offer reinstatement of policies to all our clients, both domiciled on Guernsey and visiting divers,” Archell told Divernet.

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