New Jersey Healthcare Professionals Against tthe Closing of New Jersey Poison Control Center sign now

Healthcare professionals of New Jersey have become aware of a recommendation by your transition team to close the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES). We urge that this suggestion not be followed.

NJPIES is a valuable resource for healthcare workers in NJ as well as all citizens of New Jersey that cannot be replaced. It provides a free, 24/7 hotline for all of New Jersey to call. Healthcare professionals routinely use the poison center when taking care of their patients who may have taken an overdose of a medication, accidentally ingested a chemical, been exposed to a product they think is harmful, etc. NJPIES handles about 80,000 calls a year from the citizens of this state. In fact, calls to NJPIES from physicians and hospitals have gone up dramatically in the last few years.

Despite the suggestion of the transition team, NJPIES service cannot be replaced by the internet. In an emergency situation, the medical team will not always have access to an internet site that provides up-to-date poison information. It is not realistic to expect a physician or nurse to search for information while a patient needs their direct attention. Healthcare facilities are too short-staffed to have someone taking the time to search for information when they should be providing direct patient care. Any delay in management will put a patients life in jeopardy. The experts at the Poison Center provide rapid, up-to-date, patient-specific consultations; no canned responses are given. The poison experts then follow-up with the treating medical team, so further recommendations can be made as needed. The experts at the poison center provide insight and advice that is just not found on the internet or in a textbook.

With respect to the lay public, it is not reasonable to expect that a citizen can access the internet to determine if the product/plant/chemical at a specific dose ingested is harmful to their child or themselves. It is important to recognize that the validity of information on the internet is often in question. There is no requirement for any of the information on the internet to be accurate, scientifically-based, regularly reviewed, or corrected. It is inherently dangerous to use the internet as a definitive reference, even for a health professional. We are aware of a recent experience in which a hospital physician, accessing a well-known treatment site on the internet, put a patient into cardiac arrest by administering a medication incorrectly suggested by that site. NJPIES contacted the editor of the site and the information was eventually corrected. A lay person would be even less prepared to deal with inaccurate information on the internet.

When a patient/parent calls their pediatrician, nurse practitioner, or office-based physician about a suspected overdose, that professional will often call the poison center or have the parent/patient do so. Lacking this vital resource, the victims will undoubtedly end up in an emergency room, often unnecessarily increasing the burden on emergency room staff. In an era of health care reform, every penny saved is important. A study conducted by NJPIES utilizing NJDHSS hospital utilization data suggests that, conservatively, the return on investment in NJPIES just on the cost of hospitalization in NJ for poisonings is over 10:1, that is for every $1 invested in poison control services, there is a savings of over $10. This work duplicated other investigations both nationally and regionally in other states and localities.

Also, think of the other side: the victim not taken to an emergency room because the degree of potential toxicity is not recognized until it is too late. The potential loss of function or life could be staggering.

It is not appropriate to direct calls to other state poison centers. Other centers will not know the capabilities of a specific New Jersey hospital, or which have pediatric intensive care units, or which have pediatric ECMO, etc. Further, the valuable work that NJ Poison Center does in educating the public and professionals in the state would disappear if the center was closed. NJPIES is a site where medical students from throughout the state spend time learning about poison and drug information. Students spend anywhere from 1 day to 5 weeks working with the poison experts. If the poison center is closed, there will be no place to get the hands-on experience that students in other states currently receive.

We believe that NJPIES is a necessary program that results in saving lives and significant amounts of healthcare funds. It would be short-sighted to close the center. As the healthcare professionals of New Jersey, we urge the legislature and governors office to reject the suggestion of the transition team.

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Enid BoyerBy:
Nature and EnvironmentIn:
Petition target:
Governor Christie, Commissioner of Health, and State Legislators

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