By Melanie Plenda

On Monday, the Legislative Joint Financial Committee will meet to approve emergency funds to keep New Hampshire's poison control center running for the next year. Without the funds, on July 1, poison control won't be available to New Hampshire residents anymore.It's not unusual to walk into the emergency room at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene and find gurneys with patients in the hallways. They don't like for that to happen, but it happens. After all, they take all comers in the ER, by foot and by phone, says Harneet Sethi, Medical Director of the emergency department at Cheshire.

"We're very often at capacity all of the beds are full, and you know our concern is the ability to treat the acute patients."

So add to the already high volumes and stretched staff, 6,000 extra calls or walk-ins per year--that's 15 to 20 extra people per day. This is the estimated number of poison related calls and visits expected to trickle into Emergency rooms and doctors' offices if poison control goes away.

"With regards to how the impact of the poison center--every study has shown that effective poison centers decrease unnecessary ER visits, and also allow us to focus on those that are truly necessary. So very critical that that service continue in my estimation."

The state needs at least $550,000 to pay for New Hampshire's participation the Northern New England Poison Center, or NNEPC, or New Hampshire loses the service.

As it stands, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire share the service. The headquarters is in Maine, with two satellite offices in Burlington and Concord each staffed with poisoning experts and direct access to toxicologists.

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