Qatar Poison Center saves residents from unnecessary visits to hospitals

Qatar Poison Center saves residents from unnecessary visits to hospitals

The Qatar Poison Center is located inside Sidra Medicine.

The Qatar Poison Center is playing crucial role in reducing unnecessary visits of residents to emergency departments (ER).

Qatar Poison Center helpline, opened in 2018, at Sidra Medicine, provides poisoning management advice to the public and is helping them by giving quick response in time of urgent need.

Consultations are available for calls involving children or adults, anywhere in Qatar. The center’s services are free and confidential. In addition to providing advice to the public, it also supports doctors and nurses who call from hospitals and medical facilities.

“The Qatar Poison Center helps reducing unnecessary visits to the emergency department. This is one of the biggest ways we can help people as we can advise them if their poison exposure requires them to see a doctor, or if it is something that is safe to monitor at home. This saves patients and families time and effort in visiting an ER,” Dr RJ Hoffman, Medical Director, Qatar Poison Center, Sidra Medicine told The Peninsula.

“The majority of our calls is commonly related to children either because they have ingested medications or a household cleaning product. We also field calls regarding errors in giving the wrong dosage or the wrong type of medicine to either children or adults. We have even received calls because a construction worker mistakenly ingested something like bleach because it was stored in a non-descript water bottle. We also take calls from colleagues and peers in health centers, ERs or the ICU units if they have patients who have been admitted for poisoning,” he added.

The Qatar Poison Center is staffed by pharmacists and physicians with training and expertise in clinical toxicology. Specialists in poison information receive calls from the public and healthcare institutions in Qatar. They provide management recommendations based on treatment guidelines.

“The service is available daily from 9am-1am in English and Arabic. In the near future we hope to operate 24 hours a day,” said Dr Hoffman.  “Another part of our mission is to manage poisoning in homes and in healthcare settings and to help prevent poisoning through public awareness and education programs,” said Dr Hoffman.

The Qatar Poison Center has outreach activities to the general public to make them aware of poisoning. An example is a recent poison prevention art contest for students.  Dr Hoffman is also keen to further the educational aspect and develop the practice of clinical toxicology in Qatar, by training doctors and healthcare professionals in toxicology.

“We also provide highly specialized training and advice to be prepared for dangerous poisonings such as a nuclear powerplant or radiation release, chemical and biological warfare agents, and specific chemicals used in industries,” said Dr Hoffman.

“We have successfully hosted a series of toxicology workshops earlier this year, which were very well attended by healthcare professionals and plan to host more in the near future on an annual basis. We are also seeing interest in toxicology and related topics from other hospitals in the region and look forward to welcoming more international attendees to our workshops.” he continued.

Dr Hoffman’s advice regarding poison management in the house is to store medications and poisons out of reach of children and to keep medications and poisons in their original container.