The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital started a Poisons Information Service in 1971, using a card index and text books and in 1984 they established a Poisons Information Centre (PIC). They developed a database that was designed as a result of a research project. It is one of four poisons databases in English and is unique to Africa. It includes relevant information from international resources so that all information specific to South Africa is immediately available when required. There are only 2 emergency poison lines available 24 hours to the South African public and medical professions who both use this database as their source of information, which is available for both children and adults.
The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is the only institution in South Africa that gathers and collates poisons information. Maintaining this national resource requires special skills, human resource capacity, and equipment. An updated database system with internet access is required as the Poisons Information Database is in danger of becoming out-dated if it cannot keep up with the technological requirements.
The database is distributed to 33 centres country-wide and to five other African countries on a CD, via post, to medics and hospitals at least twice a year. To date, it has grown from a system holding data on 200 to over 40 000 named toxins. The new system will offer a better and more accessible poisons advice service to medical professionals and the general public throughout southern Africa. The upgraded, internet-based system, will be accessed on and offline by medical professionals throughout the entire southern African region with the public access site on non-toxic substances reducing the load on the Health service and the Poisons Emergency Line.
Redevelopment of the Poisons Information Database will cost R3.1 million.
Redevelopment will begin in February 2012 and access to medical professionals and the public will commence in December 2012.