January 9, 2004

Vanderbilt now only Poison Control Center in the state

Featured Image

Isabel Fiala, RN, (foreground) and Dr. Stephanie Horn, an ER resident on her toxicology rotation, answer phones in the Middle Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The center is now the only one of its kind in the state. Photo by Dana Johnson

Vanderbilt now only Poison Control Center in the state

The Middle Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center will soon be the only such center, taking calls from throughout Tennessee with the closing of the Southern Poison Center at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

The Memphis center is closing Jan. 31 because of a lack of funding. The Memphis center had been operating at an annual deficit of more than $238,000. Last month, state health officials announced they would increase funding at the Middle Tennessee Poison Center to handle the additional call volume created by the closing of the Memphis center.

Vanderbilt’s center currently handles approximately 66,000 poisoning calls from 57 Tennessee counties a year, and will pick up 38 more counties in East and West Tennessee. Call volume is anticipated to peak at 96,000 calls a year.

The additional counties will require the center to add two new phone lines and four new staffers to answer an anticipated 80 to 100 additional calls a day, according to Dr. Donna Seger, chief of the Medical Toxicology Service and Program, medical director of the Middle Tennessee Poison Center and assistant professor of Medicine.

Tennessee residents can call (800) 222-1222, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and reach medical professionals who can help them in a poison emergency or answer any poison-related question.

All calls to the poison hotline are free of charge. The center gives advice and make medical referrals to people who may have come in contact with poison or other dangerous substances or overdosed on drugs.

About 70 percent of the callers to a poison center are able to remain at home instead of seeking expensive treatment at an emergency room. A 2001 survey showed the center, which received 43,000 calls in 2000, saved taxpayers almost $1,048,000 by preventing emergency room visits for cases of potential toxicity that the center’s specialists handled over the phone.

The MTPC has received most of its support from Vanderbilt — from almost 100 percent early in its inception 13 years ago to about 35 percent to 40 percent today.

”Vanderbilt University Medical Center provides institutional support for the MTPC. We are grateful for their continued support of our vital programs,” Seger said. “We appreciate the increased support provided by the state of Tennessee, which will enable all Tennessee residents to have the same standard of poison control service.”

Since 1996, MTPC has been the only nationally certified poison control center in Tennessee. MTPC adheres to the strict standards of care required by AAPCC.