• The PIC has been at the forefront of providing immediate and expert medical advice to individuals exposed to the risks of potentially hazardous substances
• These include household detergents, industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical products, pesticides, drug substances and poisons of animal and food origin
You decide to put a cockroach killing bait in your house to eliminate the insects but your child accidentally licks the powder. Or they ingest a pesticide you wanted to use in your farm.
What will be your next course of action? Well, you can now call a toll-free number and talk to experts at the Poison Information Centre (PIC).
PIC, a collaboration between aak-Grow and Kenyatta National Hospital, has been in operation since 2005, yet very few Kenyans know about its existence.
The centre, which is housed at Kenyatta National Hospital, was re-launched on Tuesday after a major upgrade.
PIC has been at the forefront of providing immediate and expert medical advice to individuals exposed to the risks of potentially hazardous substances.
These include household detergents, industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical products, pesticides, drug substances and poisons of animal and food origin.
Initially, the centre used to operate on manual systems to document incoming calls, hence had some errors when transferring the data due to lack of an effective system to filter toxicological versus agronomic calls.
Aak-Grow chairperson Patrick Amuyunzu said the intervention of CropLife Africa Middle East has led to retooling of PIC, which has now entrenched a call agent.
The agent receives the initial phone calls to the toll-free hotlines - 0800-720021 and 0800-730030 and forwards medical cases to the medical stuff.
“So the call agent eliminates the probability of non-poison cases being forwarded to medical staff at KNH, therefore making optimum use of their time and knowledge,” Amuyunzu said.
“The call agent further is trained to advise callers for non-poison related calls, and aak-Grow seeks to enhance this function for enhanced stewardship, especially in areas with high-risk value chains with significant pesticide use.”
Through stakeholder linkages and partnership with CropLife, KNH and Tygerburg poison centre in South Africa, the centre recently digitised its data capturing tools.
The real-time data capture has enabled quicker analysis and, therefore, informed quick decision-making on poison cases and has also reduced transcription errors, making data more sharable.
The digital telephone exchange system at the centre also allows many users to be added as extensions, hence allowing multiple medical officers to be on call at any one time.
This has enhanced PIC's efficiency since the caller is guaranteed a response any time they make a report on a poisoning case.
In addition, the centre has been equipped with a new laptop, a computer, two mobile phones and one portable Internet device to enable the medical personnel to be always reachable and have access to online resources.
The centre also has access to The AfriTox poisons information database, which gives information on most possible poisoning cases at the click of a button.
“KNH and aak have also established linkages with the Toxicological Society of Kenya and the Ministry of Health in ways of improving the service with regards to diagnosis and treatment of poisoning cases,” Amuyunzu said.
This will include access to more toxicologists for referral of cases plus exchange of information on poisoning cases emanating from other medical facilities across the country.
“In partnership with the ministry and counties, we intent to develop linkages with all major public and private health facilities for monitoring of pesticide poisoning incidences, which might not necessarily have been reported to PIC through the toll-free line.”
KNH Prime Care Centre senior director John Ngigi said many Kenyans today are dying from cancers, respiratory diseases, diabetes and hypertension.
Ngigi, a nephrologist, said many of the non-communicable diseases occur as a result of interactions between the environment and the genetics.
“We are getting very many Kenyans who are getting chronic kidney disease, which we cannot determine, and there is a very strong relationship between agricultural products and this,” he said.
The centre’s capabilities have been expanded and upgraded, including improved data collection, efficient call routing to medical experts, access to remote medical facilities and the handling of inquiries beyond pesticide poisoning.
"It is a win-win situation that is mutually beneficial to both parties. To get more impact, I implore you to venture into the counties," KNH chief executive Dr Evanson Kamuri said.