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About Sickkids
About SickKids

November 22, 2012

A win-win helpline: Ontario Poison Centre at SickKids enhances Manitoba services

By Christine Macdonald

Staff members from Toronto and Ottawa offices of the Ontario Poison Centre gather around a map of Manitoba. From left, Michele Paiva, Donna Tedesco, Kirsti Johnson, Silvana Salerno, Patty Clarke, Roxanne Halko, Anne Gallo, Sabin Levesque.
Staff members from Toronto and Ottawa offices of the Ontario Poison Centre gather around a map of Manitoba. From left, Michele Paiva, Donna Tedesco, Kirsti Johnson, Silvana Salerno, Patty Clarke, Roxanne Halko, Anne Gallo, Sabin Levesque.

The Ontario Poison Centre (OPC) at SickKids is providing the Province of Manitoba with enhanced poison services. Known as the Manitoba Poison Centre, the new 24/7 poison centre was launched on July 1st, 2012 via a new toll-free number and began providing clinical toxicology consultations to the public and health-care providers throughout Manitoba.  

During the first three months of the service, the OPC managed a total of 2,278 calls from Manitoba, freeing up Manitoba emergency room physicians who previously fielded the calls. In the same period of time, the OPC effectively managed 27,457 poison calls from across Ontario.

When the Manitoba Poison Centre wanted to improve its services, it initiated a competitive process and invited bids from all over North America. OPC was awarded the contract and in less than three months it developed the program and took it live.

“The Ontario Poison Centre is excited about our new relationship with physicians and health-care providers in Manitoba,” says Karen Fontana-Chow, Director Clinical Programs, OPC, Telemedicine and Motherisk.

“Kudos go to frontline staff at SickKids for working together so efficiently. This project required all parties to come together, in a very tight time frame – Industry Partnerships & Commercialization (formerly Corporate Ventures), the Office of Strategy Management, Legal Services, Finance and frontline OPC staff, who were supported throughout the process by the Hospital Executive and an organizational vision to improve the health care of all children, foster a culture of innovation and maintain our commitment to fiscal responsibility,” says Fontana Chow. “Key leaders travelled to Manitoba throughout the planning process to establish and build on collaborative relationships. We recognize the wonderful efforts of stakeholders within SickKids and the Winnipeg Health Authority.”

The partnership represents optimum utilization of health-care resources. Previously, the level of service in Manitoba was determined in part by how busy emergency room physicians were on any given day. With the introduction of the toll-free number, many patients are treated in their home with the help of one of our Specialists in Poison Information, thereby freeing up emergency resources and allowing physicians to focus on the needs of patients in their busy emergency departments. The interdisciplinary team is able to respond to the needs of the poisoned patient with expert, timely, and evidence-based treatment recommendations.

A public awareness campaign is planned for March 2013 in Manitoba and Ontario to coincide with Poison Prevention Week.

“Ontario and Manitoba toxicologists are working together to ensure the best care for the poisoned patient in their environment,” says Fontana Chow. “The long-term goal is to create a national system of interconnected poison centres with a national poison database. Tracking national statistics, identifying trends, forecasting issues and developing national prevention strategies are important next steps.”