California Poison Control Centers on Chopping Block

May 20, 2009 11:29:05 PM PDT
The hotline people call when a loved one swallows dangerous chemicals may soon fall silent. After Tuesday's special election defeat, the governor plans to stop funding the state's four poison control call centers. One of those centers is right here in the valley, at Children's Hospital Central California.Doctors, pharmacists and nurses at the children's hospital call center take more than 75,000 calls a year. They say because of their expertise, many parents are able to avoid a hospital visit and they predict an increase in healthcare costs if the centers shut down.

The medical director of the Fresno/Madera division of the California Poison Control System says the governor's proposed solution won't solve anything. Instead, the system says the closure will lead to an additional 164,000 emergency room visits a year. "If the population can't call the poison center with a poisoning emergency, then they're going to call 911 and go the hospital with the same problem. It's going to be much more expensive to do that than have the whole problem handled over the phone," said Dr. Richard Geller.

The California Poison Control System says if eliminated, California would be the only state in the country without any emergency poison control system.

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