Fresno Bee Examines Budget Problems in State Poison Control System
The Fresno Bee today examines budget problems faced by the California Poison Control System, which may have to close call centers by June 30 without new funding as a result of state and federal budget reductions. About 90 physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care workers staff the four centers -- located at the University of California-Davis Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California-San Diego Medical Center and Children's Hospital Central California in Madera County -- which provide free advice on poisonous, hazardous or toxic substances. The system is credited with averting 61,000 emergency room and doctor visits per year, saving the state $55 million annually in health costs, the Bee reports. The state's budget for the system is $8 million per year, and Gov. Gray Davis' (D) proposed fiscal year 2003-2004 budget would eliminate general funds as a funding source. The governor instead has suggested that the system seek money through the account that funds the state's 911 system. However, Stuart Heard, executive director of the poison control system, said "significant and time-consuming legislation" would be needed to allow 911 account money to be moved. In the past, hospital systems have given some disproportionate share funds -- federal money that some hospitals receive for treating a significant number of indigent patients -- to the system, but that funding source has dwindled, the Bee reports. Assembly Member Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) has introduced a bill (AB 372) that would require California residents covered by HMOs and preferred provider organizations to pay 35 cents each per year to help fund poison control. However, that bill likely will face opposition from the health care industry, according to the Bee (Correa, Fresno Bee, 4/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.