KARACHI: Medical assistance on poisoning is now just a phone call away. The Jinnah hospital’s National Poisons and Drug Information Centre (NP&DIC) launched its poison information service at the hospital’s Medicine Ward-5 on Tuesday.
The round-the-clock telephonic inquiry service will handle poisoning queries and provide information through an online database. The toll-free number, 0800-77767, can also be dialled from mobile phones. The online database has been acquired at a cost of $30,000 funded by the health ministry and World Health Organisation.
“It is the first such public-sector information centre in Karachi,” said Prof. Jamal Ara, the head of Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre (JPMC) Medicine Ward-5.
Apart from professionals, the public can also benefit from the service related to first-aid and advice, in case of poisoning emergencies arising from medicines, plant toxins, animal bites or insect stings, drug abuse and household, agricultural or industrial chemicals.
The NP&DIC service will be run by a doctor, a nurse and a pharmacist. The staff will manage the service shift-wise, said Prof. Ara.
In the private sector, Aga Khan University Hospital is the only healthcare facility in the city providing poison emergency services.
According to doctors at the hospital, there was a dire need for such a service, as every year about 2,000 poisoning cases turn up at the JPMC alone. There are only two specialised public-sector poison centres in the country; one at the JPMC and another one in Faisalabad. Both centres are internationally recognised listed in the global directory of poison control.
Prof Ara said that the telephone service aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality due to poisoning in the country. At the NP&DIC alone, she said, patients are increasing day by day and the department has witnessed a sharp increase in methanol poisoning cases, especially from the Azam Basti, Mehmoodabad, Chanesar Goth and Korangi areas.
In the past four months, 71 patients with methanol poisoning turned up at the NP&DIC and 68 of them died. The ones who survived were blinded for life. The most common cases at the centre, in order of frequency, were of organophosphate poisoning, drug overdose, snake bites and corrosive poisons.
In recognition of the service, Edhi Foundation’s Faisal Edhi has promised to display the helpline numbers on all Edhi ambulances.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2012.