rhode island department of health

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The Department of Health has a new report out on how many Rhode Islanders smoke. While the number of adult smokers has declined, nearly one in five Rhode Islanders still smokes.

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.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

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.

Ryan T. Conaty

Last night I attended one of what could be the first of 39 more public forums, put on by the state's health department, around Rhode Island. And it wasn't what I thought it would be.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

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.

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The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has announced the first finding of West Nile Virus in mosquitoes in the state this year.

The department routinely checks mosquitoes for both West Nile Virus, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis starting in the late spring.

Alan Getman of the DEM said West Nile Virus has been in Rhode Island for twelve years, and today’s reappearance was not unexpected.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Rhode Island Department of Health says a bacteria called shigella is responsible for sickening 92 people with bloody diarrhea, sending many to the emergency room and hospitalizing 16, including children. All had been swimming in a lake in Burrillville. 

Town of Burrillville

New reports of illness are still coming in as Rhode Island Department of Health officials look into an outbreak of bloody diarrhea among people who swam in Spring Lake in Burrillville on July 4th. So far, 85 people have been reported ill, and nine admitted to the hospital, according to the department. But so far, there's no clue about what specifically made them sick. Water test results have not found any bacteria but the department is re-testing. Results from those tests and from patients' stool samples could provide more answers tomorrow.

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A new report about Rhode Island’s beaches finds steady improvements in the water quality since 2008. Health officials closed beaches for fewer days last year than it did in 2011, and more improvements are in the works.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

Been wondering what's happening with Landmark Medical Center? So has Woonsocket's mayor, Leo Fontaine. He wrote a letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee, pleading with him to weigh in on the process, use his influence to somehow resolve it. Problem is, regulators say that won't help.

Here are excerpts of the mayor's letter to the governor, a copy of which he apparently emailed to several newsrooms, but not to the primary regulators involved in approving or denying Prime Healthcare's application to buy to Landmark Medical Center:

Recently, I reported on Rhode Island's fledgling prescription drug monitoring program (listen to that story here). It's a program that's supposed to spot troubling trends in prescription drug misuse. And as you might know, there's plenty of trouble to spot in Rhode Island, where prescription drug overdose death rates have soared along with rates of addiction to narcotic painkillers.

State health officials say they have solved the mystery of a synthetic drug that’s now killed 12 people.

Department of Health officials say those who died appear to have been intravenous drug users. Most came from northern Rhode Island. It took the department’s own scientists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an independent testing lab to identify the drug the deceased were injecting. It’s a synthetic opioid called acetyl fentanyl, similar to morphine. It’s man-made, illegal, and doctors don’t prescribe it.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

Rhode Island’s Attorney General and Department of Health officials say they’re suspending their review of Prime Healthcare’s application to buy the Woonsocket-based Landmark Medical Center.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates this year’s flu vaccine was effective about fifty percent of the time. But the vaccine was much less protective for older adults.

The CDC found that vaccinations against influenza types A and B were about 56 percent effective overall. But in people aged 65 and older, the vaccines only worked 27 percent of the time. But Rhode Island Department of Health director Doctor Michael Fine says that’s no reason NOT to get vaccinated.

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