The state’s health department is considering updates to its immunization policy for school kids from preschool through college. The proposals would require flu shots for kids up to age five and the HPV vaccine for kids entering ninth grade.
That means there are outbreaks of the flu in more than half the state. It also kicks into effect a state requirement that health care professionals who have NOT been vaccinated wear surgical masks whenever they’re in contact with patients. The health department reports that flu-related hospitalizations are up as well.
While the flu is now widespread in Massachusetts, it’s still sporadic in Rhode Island. But 16 Rhode Islanders have already been hospitalized, and officials expect the number of cases to spike.
Health department officials say so far there have been no flu deaths, but in past years flu has killed well over a hundred people in Rhode Island. They say one of this year’s dominant strains in Rhode Island and nationally is H1N1, but that’s also one of the strains this year’s vaccine protects against.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Health Department director Michael Fine have sent a letter to the CEO of United Healthcare New England expressing their concern over the insurer’s dropping of dozens of doctors from its managed Medicare plan in the state. They want United to reinstate doctors until they submit a plan to handle the transition.
California-based Prime Healthcare Services won approval earlier this week to buy Woonsocket’s Landmark Medical Center. But the approval came with conditions. One is that the company keep Rhode Island regulators abreast of a federal investigation it’s under for allegedly over-billing Medicare. Another is that Prime invest in primary care and in preventing hospital re-admissions. The Department of Health expressed some concern about Prime’s practices at other hospitals, but department head Michael Fine said the terms of the deal to acquire Landmark should allay those concerns.
Block Island Health Service officials say the state Department of Health has agreed to meet with them about the steep increase in Lyme disease on the island. Island officials want the state to take a more active role in fighting the disease.
Block Island Health Services officials say they’ve seen 68 cases of Lyme disease through August of this year. That’s up from 48 for all of the previous year. Health service head Barbara Baldwin says she decided it was time to ask for some help.
An Exeter man has been treated for the first human case of West Nile in Rhode Island this year.
The Rhode Island Department of Health said the 33-year-old Exeter man first started developing symptoms on September 11. Two days later he was at South County Hospital, diagnosed with viral meningitis caused by West Nile Virus. He was released a few days later and is recovering at home.