TMA Letter: HB 1015 Texas Poison Control Centers

TMA Letter: HB 1015

By TMA and the Texas College of Emergency Physicians
March 9, 2011

  House Public Health Committee   

On behalf of the Texas Medical Association and the Texas College of Emergency Physicians, thank you for allowing us to provide input on the proposed consolidation of the six Texas Poison Control Centers into one.  We understand that in times of financial crisis, difficult spending choices must be made but consolidating these valuable poison control centers will not lead to cost savings and could have a disastrous effect on public health.  

The Texas Poison Control Center Network (TPCN) was established by the Texas Legislature in 1993 to provide emergency treatment information to the citizens of Texas for poisoning or toxic exposures.  When a person or health care professional calls TPCN, they have access to a network of nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, and physicians who have extensive education, training, and expertise in the field of toxicology.  The TPCN staff member may refer callers to the nearest hospital and assist in the person’s initial treatment and follow-up care.  These centers are not only a valuable public health resource but they also save the state and Texans money by avoiding unnecessary hospital visits.  

TMA and TCEP have many concerns about the proposed consolidation.  As mentioned before, the value of these centers to the public is immeasurable.  Not only do they provide information that saves lives, but they also keep Texans out of the emergency room, which saves the person, the hospital, local governments and the state money.  About 72 percent of poison center callers are safely treated at home.  That saves each region's residents over $18 million/year in unnecessary health care costs.  One center for the entire state simply cannot serve the entire state of Texas and provide the same type of cost savings to the patient and the state.  

To maintain national accreditation, a center must provide evidence that it adequately serves its entire region. It is unlikely that a single poison center could adequately serve more than 10 million people.  Texas’ projected population will soon exceed 30 million.  In a state as large as Texas, we do not believe one center can adequately serve the population, potentially jeopardizing the accreditation of the poison center. The reason that national accreditation is so important is that any loss of accreditation status could negatively affect federal and/or local funding.  Texas poison centers are estimated to receive, under the current continuing resolution $2,076,967.  This represents to the Texas poison centers an increase of $258,629 over last year due to the increase in the Texas population.  Losing accreditation would mean losing that funding as well.  

Additionally, an advantage of having multiple poison centers across the state is the sharing of toxicology information and knowledge.  This shared information is invaluable when training health care professionals and providing information to the public.  Consolidating the centers would mean losing the toxicology knowledge and expertise “multiplier effect”.  

Also, the six poison centers in Texas each provide a full-time education program dedicated to reducing the incidence of unintentional poisonings and to increase awareness of the Poison Center’s services.  Having fewer centers in Texas would limit the amount and scope of public education services.  

Our final concern relates to the threat of bioterrorism and how Texas would respond in case of an attack. If such an attack did occur, one center would be unable to respond appropriately to calls and requests for information.  State preparedness is a national priority and we strongly support the need for emergency preparedness against potential bioterrorism attacks.  

In conclusion, consolidating the Texas Poison Control Network centers into a single entity would have far more negative consequences than positive outcomes. We believe it is in Texas’ interest to maintain three to four centers. The perceived cost savings to the state will be insignificant compared to the increase in potential emergency room and hospital visits, the loss of toxicology knowledge and expertise, the loss of federal funding and the safety of the public.

82nd Texas Legislature Testimonies 


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