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Save the Poisons Helpline!

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, May 23rd, 2014 - 29 comments
Categories: families, health, petition, same old national - Tags: ,

Your child has swallowed something caustic, and you need to know how to save them ASAP. With world’s best practice, and WHO guidelines you’ll get straight through on the Posion Hotline to find out how to counteract the liquid your child has taken.

But wait, Steven Joyce is involved. Now you need to go thru a triage call-centre first to assess your need.  As your child chokes.

This may sound over-dramatic, but it’s a real possibility, thanks to more thoughtless penny-pinching from National.

Otago Uni keep an up-to-date poison database of products available in NZ, with their brandnames etc. They subsidise the Helpline to the tune of $1.3 million per year.

It won’t be that way if Australian call-centre provider Medibank get their hands on it: will they have intimate knowledge of NZ products, brands etc. which change from week to week, NZ geography with all of its Maori place-names – and – the already stated toxicology expertise?

Outsourcing jobs. Downgrading services. Putting lives at risk. For imaginary cost savings. Typical Nats.

Best we work on saving the Helpline, with Labour’s petition. Sign it now.



29 comments on “Save the Poisons Helpline!”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    National are objectively Pro-poison. You are either with us, or you are with the poison.

  2. BM 2

    99.99999999% of people would ring 111.

  3. srylands 3

    Seriously? Wouldn’t it be much cheaper for us to pay the marginal cost to one of the Australian (or better still) the National Poisons Centre in the USA, and access their huge resources? How does it make sense for a country of 4.5 million to continually meet the fixed costs of these types of services?

    Over the next decade you are going to see an acceleration in innovation and outsourcing in public services. These types of NZ Government services will be unrecognisable from today’s business models. They will be regionalised (or globalised), cheaper, and better.

    It is irresponsible for you to be discouraging innovation with the public. You are simply engaging in emotional, populist, behaviour. You have no evidence that the planned business model will offer less value for money to the taxpayer.

    There is no alternative to the current moves.

    • BM 3.1

      Don’t be ridiculous, young babies across NZ will be dying in the thousands if this service is altered in any way.

      Damn you Steven Joyce, you evil baby killer.

    • framu 3.2

      “will they have intimate knowledge of NZ products, brands etc. which change from week to week, NZ geography with all of its Maori place-names – and – the already stated toxicology expertise?

      Outsourcing jobs. Downgrading services. Putting lives at risk. For imaginary cost savings. Typical Nats.”

      funny how thats in the post yet you fail to notice or address it

      wheres your evidence that outsourcing to overseas does anything you claim it does? – you ask for it to be provided if someone wants to keep it inside govt, but offer none to support your position

      theres stacks of evidence that outsourcing costs more, and outsourcing to overseas also adds massive errors and delays due to geographical and language issues.

      One very good example is now with immigration they have outsourced the overseas processing of paperwork to private third parties. Its an expensive disaster due to these third parties making really basic errors in both policy and process, not having a clue where anything is in NZ and zero accountability – guess whos paying for these issues to be fixed on a case by case basis – the tax payer via the immigration service

      and no where is anyone arguing against innovation – thats a TINA straw man you just shoved in there

      faith based moron

      • Tracey 3.2.1

        he meant encouraging innovation for those in other countries. I wonder if he actually works at a call centre in australia, doesnt belong to a union so is worried about his job?

    • paymar 3.3

      The poisons unit in Dunedin provides local guidelines for our local toxins, such as insect stings and household cleaning products. The US database is not relevant to our country. Our database is a premium resource that is subscribed to by health authorities, universities and hospitals across Australia and likely other countries too (https://www.library.uq.edu.au/blogs/hsl/2011/05/09/toxinz-database-trial-contains-information-toxic-compounds-and-management-poiso). It provides emergency medicine and intensive care-level guidelines on how to manage snake bites, drug overdoses etc. Our database is used in other countries because it is authoritative, comprehensive (hundreds of thousands of drugs and toxins are indexed) and regularly updated. I’m sure they make some money out of contracting their services out too.
      Here is an example of the comprehensive emergency stabilisation information provided to those at the point of care dealing with box jellyfish envenoming: http://www.toxinz.com/Demo/6/Y2hpcm9uZXgvMDAz

  4. weka 4

    “99.99999999% of people would ring 111.”

    Do you have any actual evidence of that apart from what you just pulled out of your arse?

    • wtl 4.1

      Since that number would mean that the Poisons hotline only gets 1 call out of every 10,000,000,000 (yes, 10 billion) poisons-related calls, its obvious where it came from.

      In any case, as David Clark points out below, even if you called 111 for a Poisons-related issue, the respondents would use the same service to obtain advice.

      • aerobubble 4.1.1

        This is something I don’t get. Why is it an advantage in removing the individual telephone numbers which provide pre-choice selection of service, only then to have someone pick up and have a discussion. So if its the same service advice, and the same numbers what’s the point?

  5. shorts 5

    Does National hate Dunedin – a lot of jobs there seem to be going offshore thanks to govt decrees

    Support kiwis, keep the Poisons Helpline here!

    • McFlock 5.1

      Well, two long-standing Labour seats and Michael “I’m probably related” Woodhouse… no political downside for Steven Joyce 🙂

  6. weka 6

    “Seriously? Wouldn’t it be much cheaper for us to pay the marginal cost to one of the Australian (or better still) the National Poisons Centre in the USA, and access their huge resources? How does it make sense for a country of 4.5 million to continually meet the fixed costs of these types of services?”

    Maybe it would be cheaper but why would you want to focus on cost when the post is about the true value of the service ie competency based on local expertise.

    Would love to see a US call centre know what to do with tutu poisoning. But I guess u think such things can be learnt from a call centre manual.

    We already know that loss of local knowledge downgraded the 111 service so I can only assume you are happy with the cost benefit ratio. How clinical and sociopathic of you.

  7. Ergo Robertina 7

    Quite a chunk of health and social service provision is quietly shifting to Australian owned providers as Govt/ACC/DHBs move to large-scale providers of services.
    It’s tearing apart the cross subsidisation that helps sustain our regions, such as the University of Otago with the poisons centre, or the small rural hospitals that used home help contracts to help pay overheads.

  8. tinfoilhat 8

    How many calls does the poisons helpline get ?

  9. srylands – the service costs $2.8 million. University of Otago meets $1.3 million of that as part of a social service commitment. It is a heavily subsidised service that supplies the expert toxicologists (the same people who work on the database) when every second counts. Do you really think they will want to maintain that effective subsidy for the database for an international for-profit provider to provide a less-adequate service?

  10. weka 10

    Ben, are you able to pass this on to the relevant Labour person? I won’t sign a petition that automatically puts me on the Labour Party mailing list. It wouldn’t be that hard to put an opt in button on that page, whereby people who want to be kept up to date with the Labour campaigns can choose to do so.

    [Ben: I’m advised that upon signing the petition you get an instant email, from which you can unsubscribe straight away as a work around. An opt-out is a good idea though.]

  11. “99.99999999% of people would ring 111.”. Not true. Plunket advises all of its clients about the poison service. The 0800 Poison number is displayed prominently on products.
    Also worth noting it is the service that paramedics, emergency workers, GPs and vets use. 90% of users say they would have rushed to A&E if they couldn’t access the 0800 line (imagine the additional burden that would place on an already stretched service).

    • freedom 11.1

      ” 90% of users say they would have rushed to A&E if they couldn’t access the 0800 line (imagine the additional burden that would place on an already stretched service).”


    • BM 11.2

      “99.99999999% of people would ring 111.”. Not true

      If your baby had swallowed something caustic you’d ring the poison hotline first, before 111?

      • McFlock 11.2.1

        one scenario does not dictate all use.
        Even ED physicians call the hotline when the child is brought in, if there’s no onsite pharmacologist who can accurately and quickly analyse the complex drug interactions – especially if half the medicine cabinet is involved.

      • emergency mike 11.2.2

        “If your baby had swallowed something caustic you’d ring the poison hotline first, before 111?”

        Yup. If that happens the first thing you need is rapid expert advice on what to do. It may well be most important to act quickly. So you can call the poisons number, get that advice, and have them call an ambulance, or you can call 111, have a discussion with someone about whether you’d like a fire truck, then wait while they call the poison number so as to get back to you with what to do right now while the ambulance comes.

        You can go your own way BM, but if my baby was choking on poison I’d call the experts.

      • wtl 11.2.3

        You are ignoring the rest of David’s comment and positing a straw man argument. As he and others have said, even you don’t directly use the 0800 POISONS number but dial 111, then the respondents to your 111 number would still use the same poisons hotline service. So it doesn’t matter who you call originally.

  12. Philj 12

    Have used the service as young son took the contraceptive pill and dish washing powder, on seperate occasions. Service was excellent. I hope Joyce’s offspring appreciate what their dad is doing for them.

  13. greywarbler 13

    It is ironic that gummint wants to save money on what is a streamlined service using modern technology to deliver an efficient, clean, lean information service available to the public to assist in worrisome situations and help prevent costly outcomes.

    And once that is operating satisfactorily the weasels want to shut down part and reduce numbers of specialist channels rendering it chaotic unreliable vulnerable to failure and staffed on price by overworked and under-trained semi-skilled workers when the opposite is needed.

    What do we pay these government monkeys to do? Be change agents? As useful as a toddler building towers of blocks and knocking them over with a giggle of glee. That’s cute, but venal, simple-minded government-inspired budget stranglers aren’t.

  14. dv 14

    If the service is outsourced to say a private Aussie provider, what is to stop the provider getting cheaper call centre some where else in the world?

  15. Rosie 15

    Hi Ben, thanks for posting the petition. Signed and passed on. You know, every week the National Govt do something daft. The move to amalgamate several emergency health and mental health lines is one of their more face palmy type moments – it’s reckless, irresponsible and not thought through.

    Folks calling those lines are in a crisis situation and several seconds wasted fumbling around with options “press one to speak to….” could be the seconds that make a difference to their outcomes. The example you give above is not overly dramatic imo.

    Big ups to David Clark for popping in too (and noting that it’s not just individuals using the service, it’s health professionals that need that vital information in treating their patients who they suspect have been poisoned)

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