Nurses support Poisons Centre

The New Zealand Nurses Union has issued a position statement calling for Dunedin's National Poisons Centre to be saved.

The centre faces amalgamation with other help lines, its fate being determined in a drawn-out Ministry of Health process to determine how a new service would be configured.

The nurses' union position statement says 45% of the poison line's 36,000 calls each year are from health professionals.

The union supports consolidation of other counselling and advisory helplines, but believes the poison line should remain separate.

''It is essential that callers have the quickest, most direct access to expert advice, particularly since most calls concern accidental child poisoning, where the window of opportunity for intervention is even shorter.

''The quality of service provided by the poison helpline is underpinned by well-trained, expert and experienced staff, equally competent to deal with inquiries from the public and health professionals, and the most comprehensive information, evidence and research on clinical toxicology, poisoning and treatment procedures in Australasia.''

Public awareness of hazardous substances could be diminished if the service was amalgamated and had a lower profile.

Its strong relationship with the University of Otago could also be affected, the position statement said.

The Otago Daily Times asked the Ministry of Health to respond to the position statement, but was told that to do so might ''jeopardise commercial negotiations''.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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