Health Care

Jake Harper / RIPR

One infectious disease – Ebola – is dominating the headlines now. But there’s another that affects far more people around the world, including here in the U.S.

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.”

Rhode Island Nurses Prep For Ebola

Oct 16, 2014

The transmission of Ebola to two Texas nurses has raised concern among health care workers nationwide. And there are concerns as well in Rhode Island.

Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, Donna Policastro, says Rhode Island nurses are worried but well prepared for a potential Ebola outbreak. Policastro says the situation in Dallas has given nurses and hospital officials more reason to plan than panic.

Rhode Island’s Liberian community and the state Department of Health are meeting weekly on the Ebola crisis.  One top concern is monitoring family and friends who travel from Liberia.

Ashoka Mukpo Facebook

The father of the Rhode Islander being treated for Ebola said his son is uninsured and welcomes the help. It’s been a week Monday since Ashoka Mukpo arrived at a biocontainment  unit in Omaha for treatment.

Friends of the 33-year-old freelance cameraman started the GoFundMe page to help pay for medical bills they say could exceed $500,000. So far the online campaign to help Mukpo has raised more than $45,000.


Rhode Islander Ashoka Mukpo’s condition has improved slightly. He’s being treated for Ebola in Nebraska. Family and doctors are optimistic but cautious.

The Nebraska Medical Center says in a statement that Mukpo’s condition is a little better since his arrival at the center’s biocontainment unit earlier this week.

John Bender / RIPR

Leaders in Rhode Island’s Liberian community are figuring how to deal with the Ebola outbreak that has just begun to reach U.S. shores. Many Liberians travel between the U.S. and the West African country.  The state Department of Health is now asking members of the Liberian population to monitor friends and relatives for signs of symptoms.  They're asking people to check their temperature at least twice a day.

The Nebraska Medical Center

The Rhode Islander diagnosed with Ebola has received a blood transfusion from a doctor who previously had the virus.

Dr. Kent Brantly was the first American flown back to the U.S. to be treated for Ebola. Now he’s helping the fifth American diagnosed with the virus, Rhode Islander Ashoka Mukpo.

It’s not just hospitals in Rhode Island that are preparing for the possible arrival of Ebola cases. The state’s prison system is also getting ready.

The department of corrections is responsible for the health care of more than three thousand inmates on any given day.  The institution takes in whomever the justice system sends – regardless of their health. That’s why corrections medical director doctor Fred Vohr says they must be ready for anything.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

This week we’re bringing you stories from our series One Square Mile: Narragansett Bay. We’re taking a deep dive into the bay that helps define the Ocean State. Its history. Its present. Its future. Now, a look at how the bay keeps us healthy, through the eyes of a few of the growing numbers of open water swimmers.

Gathering for an evening swim

We’re sitting on a ledge at Narragansett town beach. The sky is overcast, it’s early evening. Dozens of people are suiting up for a swim.

The Rhode Islander diagnosed with Ebola is being treated with an experimental drug. Ashoka Mukpo is in isolation at the Nebraska Medical Center where doctors are treating him with an experimental antiviral drug called Brindicofovir. This is the drug that is also being used to treat Thomas Eric Duncan, the man in Dallas who is the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.

The head of the state’s health department says there’s a chance Rhode Island could have one or two imported cases of the Ebola virus. That’s because of travel within Rhode Island’s sizeable Liberian community, the largest population per capita in the U.S.  

Dr. Michael Fine said hospitals have teams and quarantined areas standing by should a case appear in Rhode Island. He doesn’t think that once here Ebola will spread.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

If you’ve walked through the front doors of a hospital lately, you might remember the friendly volunteer who greeted you, or gave you directions. Volunteers have been a mainstay in health care settings for years. But they’ve become an increasingly critical resource as health care dollars are spread thin.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A child from Rhode Island has died from a combination of infections, including enterovirus D68, or EV-D68. It’s one of the first known deaths with some kind of link to EV-D68. What role the respiratory virus played in the child’s death is still unclear.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Maybe you didn’t know it, but by state law no new nursing homes can be built in Rhode Island unless the owners agree to build a new kind of nursing home. This week state officials approved the application of the first new home since the moratorium began. It’s based on a concept called “culture change.” And Rhode Island Public Radio health care reporter Kristin Gourlay takes us to a home that’s already adopted it.