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Tennessee Poison Center celebrates 30th anniversary

Feb. 12, 2018, 2:02 PM

The Tennessee Poison Center (TPC) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, following a year in which it received more than 50,000 emergency calls from residents, healthcare professionals, emergency departments and intensive care units.

TPC’s Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) received 50,934 calls in 2017, 24 percent of which were from healthcare professionals, emergency departments and intensive care units.

It saved taxpayers an estimated $10.4 million in 2017 by preventing emergency department fees for uninsured residents, a figure based on estimates of the state’s hospital emergency department fees.

“Poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in Tennessee, surpassing motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds and drownings,” said Donna Seger, MD, who has served as medical director of the Tennessee Poison Center since 1990.

Donna Seger, MD

“When poison victims are treated at home, unnecessary medical expenses are avoided and valuable healthcare dollars are saved,” she said.

In a recent call survey, 52 percent of hotline callers replied they would have visited a hospital emergency department if the poison center were not available; 62 percent of calls in 2017 were safely managed at home or on site rather than in a healthcare facility.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) established the Middle Tennessee Poison Center (MTPC) on Feb. 25, 1988, in response to the community’s need for a comprehensive poison resource center.

“VUMC provided essential support to establish a poison center that would provide services for the public and healthcare professionals in Nashville and 43 surrounding counties,” Seger said. “That first year, MTPC provided service to 11,649 hotline callers.”

Tennessee’s remaining poison control centers ceased operation in 2004 and MTPC changed its name to the Tennessee Poison Center (TPC) as it was designated by the Tennessee Department of Health as the poison control center for all 95 Tennessee counties.

TPC, one of 55 poison control centers in the U.S., has a goal to prevent poisonings, minimize poisoning complications and reduce the number of poison-related deaths through telephone hotline intervention, public education, professional education and clinical research.

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