Your Weekly Briefing: Health In Rhode Island, Mar. 7

Mar 7, 2017

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What’s happening in health care in Rhode Island, March 7:

CARE NEW ENGLAND LAYOFFS: Care New England continues to struggle financially. A memo from CNE head Dennis Keefe let employees know another round of layoffs would take place in an effort to staunch the bleeding. Keefe blamed low patient volumes and losses from Memorial Hospital. None of the layoffs will involve patient care staff, but instead come from the corporate services ranks. Word on the street is that Care New England is still in talks with potential suitors, but it remains to be seen what the organization will do with the money-hemorrhaging Memorial Hospital.

OBSTETRICS UNITS: Meanwhile, Rhode Island Hospital has requested a public hearing about Women and Infants bid to refurbish its labor and delivery unit. And Women and Infants has requested a public hearing to protest Rhode Island Hospital’s proposal to build a new labor and delivery unit. The meetings have not been scheduled yet but I’m told they’re a regular part of the Certificate of Need process. That’s the process through which health care organizations make requests to build new facilities or add services. The majority of babies born in Rhode Island are born at Women and Infants Hospital. Rhode Island Hospital says it wants to be able to offer female patients greater continuity of care.

IMPORTING MEDS: U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are joining Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in cosponsoring legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Americans to purchase medicines from Canada.  The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would also authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow importation from other advanced countries in future years. The co-sponsors say the bill includes detailed provisions outlining consumer protections to ensure the safety of imported drugs, including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certification of foreign sellers.

MARIJUANA COMMISSION: Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) has introduced legislation (2017-H 5551) that would create a special legislative commission to study the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana in Rhode Island. The commission would consist of three members of the House of Representatives, three members of the Senate, one member from Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the President of the Substance Use Mental Health Council of RI or a designee, a member from a pro-legalization organization, the Executive Director of the RI Medical Society or a designee, a member of a local chamber of commerce, the Director of the Department of Health or a designee, the President of the RI Police Chief’s Association or a designee, a designee of the RI Attorney General, and a member representing the medical marijuana patients of Rhode Island. Canario says the purpose of the commission would be to conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations regarding marijuana and the effects of its use on the residents of Colorado and Washington to the extent available, and to study the fiscal impact to those states; and the potential impact on Rhode Island of legalized recreational marijuana.

TOBACCO AGE: Rep. Teresa Tanzi has introduced legislation to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. It would apply to all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, and would take effect Jan. 1, 2018. If passed, Rhode Island would become the third state to adopt 21 as the minimum age for tobacco purchases, after Hawaii and California. Boston, New York City and 212 other municipalities across the country, including 80 in Massachusetts alone, have adopted local ordinances raising their tobacco purchase age to 21.