The Pulse

The Pulse is written by Kristin Gourlay, an award winning health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Full archive of The Pulse can be found here.

Rhode Islanders with Medicaid coverage may have a more difficult time finding a doctor. And every obstetrics and gynecology practice in the state has a waiting list. Those are just two of the findings in a massive survey just completed by the state’s health department.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

That’s a loaded question, but one that Brown University President Christina Paxson tried to unpack at a lecture Monday night. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Health department director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott has laid out a plan to improve Rhode Islanders’ health over the coming year.  She described the plan to lawmakers Tuesday evening, a common gesture from the state's top health official. One of her overarching priorities is to reduce disparities across the state.

Gilead Sciences

  Federal officials say state Medicaid agencies may be going too far when it comes to restricting access to new hepatitis C drugs. Rhode Island, like many states, requires Medicaid patients to meet a list of criteria before doctors can prescribe them the new medications. But those criteria may be too restrictive.

RI Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force

To tackle an epidemic at the population level, you need data. Lots and lots of data. That's especially true with our state, and our nation's, opioid addiction and overdose death epidemic. Scientists need to know who's using? Where? When? Why? How do they get started? Who supplies them? What else were they taking when they died? What are the other factors in their lives or communities contributing to the problem? 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s  two largest health care systems have resumed talks about a possible affiliation. It’s not the first time Lifespan and Care New England have hinted at a future relationship, but most of the details remain under wraps.  For this week’s The Pulse, I explore the ups and downs of a potential partnership for the hospitals and for patients with news director Elisabeth Harrison. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s Community Health Centers have gotten a couple of funding boosts this week. The funds are intended to expand access to primary care and dental care.

Thundermist Health Center in Woonsocket will receive $1 million dollar federal grant to add exam rooms and hire more primary care doctors. 

Lifespan and Care New England, Rhode Island’s two largest hospital systems, have quietly revived merger talks, Lifespan ceo and president, Dr. Timothy Babineau, said today.

In a brief interview, Babineau said the talks ``are in very early stages’’ and are in response to Care New England’s request for partnership proposals that was released last spring.


Dental insurer Delta Dental of Rhode Island has announced more than $1 million in a series of gifts to support clinics and health professionals across Rhode Island to provide oral health care to those in need.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / video screen shot

On Tuesday night, I joined a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-sponsored panel of cancer doctors, researchers, and a pharmaceutical industry representative in Pittsburgh to talk specialty drug costs. I shared some of what I've learned reporting on the high cost - and huge benefits - of new hepatitis C treatments. But I learned much more about what drives the high cost of pharmaceuticals, and what health care providers, insurers, government, patients, and drug companies can do to rein in those costs.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

This week, new details have emerged about financial mismanagement at the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. A second audit has revealed the former director of the child welfare agency may have violated state ethics rules by getting paid to be a consultant for a vendor DCYF was overseeing.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

It's not just financial irregularities plaguing the child welfare agency. There are lists of reforms officials must tackle - including 20 specific recommendations from a group of lawmakers.

When the state’s child welfare agency told the General Assembly it would need another cash infusion to make it through the end of the year, a group of lawmakers decided to dig in to the root cause of the agency’s financial problems.

Komlan Soe

It’s been a year since the height of an Ebola outbreak that ravaged West Africa and kept communities in the United States on high alert.  In Rhode Island, the crisis hit home with a large Liberian and West-African born community.

A group called Ebola Be Gone emerged as a driving force for raising awareness and providing supplies for those affected. One of its leaders, Komlan Soe, joined us in the studio to reflect on how that experience brought his community together and changed his life.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

I wish I could be in two places at once. This Friday, two health policy-related conferences take place simultaneously in Warwick. Here's a bit more about each, and why the issues they're covering matter to Rhode Islanders.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The union representing Rhode Island Hospital nurses and other medical professionals has rejected the latest contract proposal from the Lifespan hospital network, owner of the hospital.

``Our focus now is to continue fighting for a fair and reasonable agreement that represents the sacrifice and commitment that front-line caregivers bring to their job every day,’’ said Helene Macedo, president of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5808.