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PAH Toxicology Unit halves bed days

21 April 2017

A dedicated Toxicology Unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) has halved the average length of stay of toxicology presentations, saving the hospital more than $1 million each year.

The unit provides 24/7 specialist care, consultation and inpatient management for patients who overdose, have been poisoned or envenomed.

PAH Emergency Physician and Clinical Toxicologist Dr Colin Page said the unit provided a vital service to patients who experienced an overdose.

“These people are perceived to have a self-inflicted illness and often you’ll hear comments such as ‘they’re here all the time’ or ‘they’re always overdosing’,” he said.

“It’s never that black and white, right and wrong. These people have a chronic illness no different to having heart disease or epilepsy and they deserve the best care we can provide.”

Dr Page said most patients who have been previously admitted to hospital following an overdose do not expect good care. 

“Patients who have overdosed are not use to being well looked after. It’s perceived that because it’s self-inflicted these patients should do something about it and that they should fix themselves and that they should stop overdosing,” he said.

“At PAH, we’re hoping that their admission is going to be least traumatic as possible for them. We know these patients, we know them well, we know how to look after them. And ultimately, they get better care each time they come in because they see the same team.”

PAH Emergency Physician Dr Katherine Isoardi, who is currently studying to become a clinical toxicologist, said the dedicated unit had cut bed days by ensuring patients received the appropriate level of care.

 “We get to know these patients well and we avoid about 30 per cent of unnecessary mental health reviews, which not only saves time and money but also saves the patients the unnecessary burden of being in hospital longer than required.”

The four-person unit also provided a phone consultation service to other Metro South Health facilities and received an average of 31 calls a month, saving Queensland Health an additional $15,500 each month. 

The findings were published in Emergency Medicine Australasia 2017 under the study ‘Establishing a dedicate toxicology unit reduces length of stay of poisoned patients and saves hospital bed days’.

Last updated 21 April 2017
Last reviewed 21 April 2017

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