ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Poison Center is investigating a report that a caller to its new hotline had difficulty making a connection.
The number unveiled Jan. 30 could have problems, but there haven’t been any complaints in at least three months since the line has been operational, said Bruce Anderson, director of operations at the poison center.
There’s no way of knowing of connection problems unless a caller who can’t connect to the national number calls an older number to report it, Anderson said.
“We don’t know if it’s working in every county, or every exchange or area code,” he said. “We can’t call people and say `Can you call us and see if this works?’ I don’t really have a way to test to see if all the different telephone numbers work.”
The new number 1-800-222-1222 links all the state poison control centers in the nation and automatically routes a caller to the appropriate agency. It’s also being heralded as easier to remember.
An editor from the Capital newspaper in Annapolis called the number to test that it worked. However, he was unable to get through and called an older poison center hotline to report the problem.
“I don’t know if there’s an issue,” Anderson said. “The only person I heard (was having problems) was this (editor). We haven’t had a complaint in at least three months.”
The center has been experiencing minor problems since the number was launched, Anderson said.
“Well, I think it’s because it’s a new program,” Anderson said. “When you think about the number of area codes that have to be entered into the database, you can expect to have problems.”
Some Maryland callers to the national hotline have been routed to the Washington, D.C., poison center while some Washington callers have been routed to Maryland, he said.
“We know this was something that was going to happen with that many households,” Anderson said. “It was something that was expected.”
The editor could have called at a time when there was an overload of callers, which could have prevented him from being connected, said Toby Litovitz, executive director of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
“At this point in time, we don’t know of any problems,” she said. “We haven’t confirmed any numbers in Maryland that can’t get through.”
However, she agreed with Anderson that the center can’t troubleshoot the new line until a complaint is reported.
“I have more confidence in a person’s ability to get through to a poison center than you do,” Litovitz said. “If you can find a number that can’t get through, we’d love to know about it.”