Rambam Medical Center campus contains the National Poison Control Center (NPCC).
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The National Poison Control Center – whose aim is to speed up treatment in the event of accidental poisoning and make it unnecessary to go to hospital emergency rooms if there is no danger – now receives most of its queries from the public.
In the past, it preferred to be consulted by physicians, but it recognized the importance of being available round the clock to people – mostly parents – who fear their child has swallowed something dangerous.
Reporting at the high season for poisonings – the spring cleaning days leading up to Passover, the NPCC (owned by the Health Ministry) said on Monday that it has adopted a US model to improve functioning. It integrated academically trained nurses with experience in urgent care into its staff and they underwent specialist training to cope with cases of suspected poisoning.
In the US, the NPCC said similar activity helped save resources by speeding up the handling of poisoning and preventing unnecessary visits to emergency rooms when there was no danger to the person involved.
The NPCC pilot, which began more than a year ago, has proved itself, said center director Prof. Yedidia Bentur. In 2013, some 31,000 cases of suspected or actual accidental poisoning were called into the center.
About half of them involved children under the age of six. In 2014, the total was 25 percent higher, and in three-quarters of the cases, the query was made quickly by members of the public rather than through their doctors. Thirty years ago, only a 10th of queries came from the public at large.
The staff at the center, located at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, includes internal medicine specialists, pediatricians and clinical pharmacologists. Sergei Altonin, a nurse in Rambam’s intensive care unit, said that it is increasingly clear that unnecessary visits to already crowded hospital emergency rooms have been prevented. “We know how to ask the right questions, check toxicology databases and give the right answers. If there has been a poisoning, we advise what side effects appear and what to do... We also know how to calm parents.”