Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Care New England, the parent organization of Women and Infants, Memorial, Butler, and Kent Hospitals, as well as The Providence Center, has announced it’s pursuing a formal alliance with Southcoast Health. The two health systems face several hurdles before their partnership can be official.

The boards of both organizations approved the proposed affiliation today  after announcing its possibility last November. What happens next is a regulatory review process in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where Southcoast has a chain of community hospitals.

photo by Megan Hall

Consolidation is the name of the health care game right now – but is it good for patients?

Let's review what's in the works in our state right now:

Ian Donnis / RIPR

State Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed joins Political Roundtable this week to discuss changes in Rhode Island's healthcare landscape, how lawmakers will address the proposed legalization of marijuana, and the outlook on improving public education.

Kristin Gourlay / ripr

  Hospitals could face another rate cut under the Medicaid budget proposed for this fiscal year. Tension over the cuts came up during a budget hearing this week.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island Hospital wants to deliver more babies. The hospital is seeking permission to open a new inpatient obstetrics unit.

The new unit would cost $20 million dollars, according a letter of intent filed with the state health department. In that letter, Rhode Island Hospital says it would be ready to take patients in a couple of years. 

Photo courtesy of Care New England

Care New England has entered exclusive talks with Southcoast Health System, a southeastern Massachusetts chain of community hospitals, about a possible affiliation. If state and federal regulators approve the partnership, the combined organization would become one of the largest in New England.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Westerly Hospital’s parent company, Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, is pursuing an affiliation with a bigger organization: Yale New Haven Health System. The deal could bring in millions of dollars from Yale-New Haven.

Connecticut-based L&M acquired Westerly Hospital a little more than two years ago. And since then, consolidation and competition in the health care marketplace have only ramped up. Yale New Haven Health System is a bigger fish in this regional pond, with three hospitals and about $3.4 billion dollars in revenue.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Today is the due date for a plan to cut nearly $180 million dollars from Medicaid. Half of that is state funding, the other matching federal dollars. To close a burgeoning state budget gap, Gov. Gina Raimondo has proposed cutting hospital and nursing home payments. Her “Reinvent Medicaid” task force delivers its recommendations today for finding the rest of the savings in the state’s health insurance program for the poor. Their proposals are aimed at reducing the cost of caring for some of the most complex patients.

Patients like Juana Kollie.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s new budget proposes cutting millions of dollars in payments to hospitals and nursing homes. While their bottom lines have been improving, hospital officials say the cuts could hurt that recovery.

Rhode Island is making some progress against hospital-acquired infections. But some infection rates are still higher than the national average.

A rising tide lifts all boats. That’s the finding of a Brown University researcher who investigated whether hospital quality improvements brought better care for minority patients as well as white.

Brown University professor Amal Trivedi wanted to know if improved standards at hospitals have helped all patients equally.  Medicare asked hospitals to start reporting certain quality measures in 2005. Trivedi said that at that time, there were significant disparities between the care whites and minorities got at hospitals around the country.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials have unveiled the state’s Ebola emergency response plan. The plan spells out the steps state agencies will take to handle potential cases.

The Rhode Island health department says it’s conducting exercises with hospitals to test their readiness for Ebola patients.

In a weekly update to reporters, state health officials say there are no cases of Ebola in Rhode Island, although they have investigated – and ruled out – "a number of" possible cases since August.

Rhode Island State Nurses Association head Donna Policastro said a national nursing organization is encouraging nurses to refuse to care for patients showing signs of Ebola – if they don’t feel their hospitals are adequately prepared. Policastro said this puts nurses in a difficult position.

“Through our code of ethics we take care of everyone," said Policastro. "But nurses need to feel protected. And those two nurses in Dallas serve as symbols of the fact that Dallas Presbyterian wasn’t ready. And they said they were ready.”

It's back to school time for kids, of course (and teachers). But perhaps it's time to head back into the classroom or lecture hall yourself.

Need a refresher course in keeping healthy? Strategies for coping with chronic disease? Or perhaps you'd like to learn more about the vaccinations you need, or how to be a brand new parent. Whatever your curiosity or particular health challenge, there's probably a class, lecture, or program out there to help you.