More than 30,000 laymen and medical personnel called the National Poison Control Center at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center in 2011 to determine whether specific ingested substances were potentially or actually poisonous or to get other toxicology advice.

While initially the Health Ministry wanted the center reserved for medical professionals, it decided to encourage residents to use the 24- hour service so lives could be saved, without having a physician to consult with it first.

The report showed that most accidental poisoning occurs in the home. The use of the phone-in center is increasing, with more awareness of it among the public, the ministry said. It urged parents and others to ensure that all toxic materials are locked up safely so children have no access.

Last year, there was a 3.8 percent increase in queries to the center and a 146% rise since 1995. The largest share of exposures to poison – 53% – led to a call to the center within an hour. Queries came not only from homes and hospitals, but also from health funds and community clinics. The share of calls from physicians on behalf of patients has declined steadily over the years, apparently because there is a fee involved. Bentur recommended that the fee for consultation with toxicologists be canceled and that more nurses and pharmacists be hired, with funding provided by the government as in the United States and elsewhere.

Medications were the most common cause of suspected poisoning (15,454 queries) followed by chemicals (11,281).

The report concluded there was “no doubt” that consultation with a national poison control center is of great assistance in getting proper treatment for poisoning victims.

The center, whose phone number is (04) 854 2092, is run by Prof. Yedidya Bentur.

The email address is ipic@rambam.health.gov.il.

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