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2009

Department of Health, Department of Elderly Affairs Issue Extreme Cold Advisory

01-14-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Elderly Affairs (DEA) are issuing a joint advisory to remind people of precautions to take in extreme cold. Frigid temperatures are predicted to start Wednesday afternoon and continue through the holiday weekend, so it is especially important that all Rhode Islanders take the following precautions:

  1. Check on elderly family, friends and neighbors frequently. The elderly are especially susceptible to extremely cold temperatures.
  2. Watch for ice that can cause falls and leave you unable to get back inside.
  3. Indoor temperatures should be set according to activity level, health and medications. A safe, fuel-saving temperature for a young, active family may be dangerous for an older person who has trouble moving or is taking certain medications.
  4. Wear a coat, hat, scarf and gloves even for a short walk to a mailbox. A fall or a locked door can leave you exposed to extreme cold.
  5. Dress warmly if you are inside, especially if you are not physically active.
  6. Avoid drinking alcohol as it can lower the body’s ability to keep warm.
  7. If someone has been exposed to extreme cold and is showing signs of hypothermia (confusion, trouble walking, shivering) call 911 right away. Cover the person with a warm blanket. Do not rub the person’s arms or legs.

“Exposure to lower-than-normal temperatures for even a short time can be dangerous,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “It is important that we all use caution during extreme cold, and as a community, be particularly aware of those who are most at risk.”

“We want to ensure that all elders are safe in their community during the upcoming cold weather,” said Director of Elderly Affairs Corinne Calise Russo. “Anyone who has elderly friends, family or neighbors should make a plan to call and check in with them on a regular basis throughout the weekend.”

Flu Vaccination Is The Best Protection Against Antiviral-Resistant Flu Strains

01-15-2009

The Department of Health (HEALTH) wants to inform all Rhode Islanders that this year, it is even more important to get your annual flu vaccination. Recent information released from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the most common strain of the flu that is circulating this flu season is resistant to the antiviral most commonly used for treatment. According to the CDC, last year, only 11 percent of patients who were tested had a strain of the flu that was antiviral-resistant. This year, 99 percent of patients who were tested have a strain of flu that is antiviral-resistant.

“An annual flu vaccination is still the best and easiest way to protect people from the flu,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This recent finding of influenza’s widespread resistance to medication makes it even more important for everyone, especially those at high risk, to get vaccinated this year.”

HEALTH provides flu vaccine for all children, adolescents and adults in the state. There is still plenty of vaccine available in the state. Typically, it takes the body 10-14 days to develop immunity after receiving a flu vaccination. Historically, flu season in Rhode Island peaks in late January and early February. Currently, there is sporadic flu activity in the state but we are seeing outbreaks in other states.

Every year, some 36,000 people in the United States die from influenza and its complications. CDC recommends that the following groups should get a flu vaccination every year:

  • Children ages 6 months to 18 years of age.
  • Anyone age 50 or older.
  • Anyone who is a resident of a long-term care facility.
  • Anyone who has a chronic, long-term health condition such as heart or lung disease, asthma or diabetes.
  • Anyone who has a weakened immune system.
  • Any woman who is pregnant.
  • Any healthcare worker who provides direct patient care.
  • Anyone who lives with or cares for someone in one of the above categories.

To get a flu shot, call your healthcare provider, go to the final public flu clinic.

Update on National Salmonella Outbreak Investigation

01-20-2009

Today, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued updated warnings regarding an outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium. More than 400 people nationwide are believed to have become ill from eating peanut butter or products containing peanut butter that are contaminated with a particular strain of Salmonella. Four of these cases are from Rhode Island.

CDC and FDA recommendations include:

For consumers:

  • Do not eat products that have been recalled and throw them away in a manner that prevents others from eating them.
  • Do not eat other foods that contain peanut butter (cookies, crackers, cereal, candy or ice cream) until information is available about whether that product may be affected.

For retailers:

  • Do not sell recalled products.
  • For directors of institutions and food service establishments:
  • Do not serve recalled products to patients.

Department of Health Presents Community Partnership Award to Flu Day Participants

01-22-2009

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) presented 11 healthcare providers with a Community Partnership Award. This award is presented to individuals or groups in Rhode Island whose contributions are exceptional and support the mission of HEALTH.

Each of the eleven providers participated in the state’s first Flu Vaccination Day in November and hosted flu vaccination clinics during non-traditional times that were more convenient for patients. Flu Vaccination Day gave Rhode Islanders the opportunity to protect themselves and their families from getting the flu. In addition, vaccine was offered at no charge to anyone who was uninsured. The participants included private providers, mass immunizers and pharmacies.

The Award recipients were:

  • CCAP – Family Health Services, Cranston
  • CCAP Wilcox Health Services
  • Coastal Medical, Park
  • Hillside Avenue Family and Community Medicine
  • JB Pharmacy
  • Lincoln Pediatric Associates
  • Scituate Health Alliance
  • VNA of Care New England
  • VNS of Newport and Bristol Counties
  • VNS of Greater Rhode Island
  • The Wellness Company

Peanut Butter Products Recall Expands

01-23-2009

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to add food products (for humans and for pets) that contain peanut butter to the voluntary recall list. As of Friday afternoon, the recall list included almost 300 products. FDA expects more products will be added to the recall list.

Because the national investigation is ongoing and more products are being added to the recall list, FDA recommends that consumers not eat any products containing peanut butter or peanut paste. Commercial brand jarred peanut butters are not included in this recall. If there is a question about a particular product, FDA recommends a consumer check the recall list or visit the individual company’s website.

Any product that is on the recall list should be thrown away in a manner that prevents others from eating them. If a product is not on the recall list and the product’s manufacturer is not certain about the ingredients, FDA recommends that consumers not eat the product.

Nearly 500 people nationwide are believed to have become ill from eating peanut butter or products containing peanut butter that are contaminated with a particular strain of Salmonella. There have been 6 deaths and 22 percent of the people who were sick had to be hospitalized. Four of these cases are from Rhode Island.

New Site for Pawtucket. Central Falls WIC Clients' Services

02-02-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) wants to inform Pawtucket and Central Falls Women Infant and Children (WIC) clients that as of Monday, February 2, 2009, WIC services will be available at new locations.

On a temporary basis, Blackstone Valley Community Health Center (BVCHC) WIC clients can pick up WIC checks at the Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN) office, 175 Main Street, Pawtucket 401-727-4144 or at any other WIC site in the state. (English and Spanish staff is available at RIPIN.)

HEALTH is in the process of establishing permanent WIC sites in Pawtucket and Central Falls. Any BVCHC clients who were in the process of enrolling in WIC should call HEALTH’s Information Line at 1-800-942-434 to be redirected to another WIC site.

Rhode Island Nursing Homes Outperform Nation in Third Statewide Report on Resident and Family Satisfaction With Nursing Home Care in Rhode Island

02-11-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released the third annual survey on resident and family satisfaction with nursing home care Rhode Island. The survey results indicate that in 2008, nursing homes, on average, outperformed nursing homes nationwide. In Rhode Island, 91% of residents and 91% of family members rated their satisfaction with the facility as either “Good” or “Excellent.” In comparison, 87% of residents and 85% of family members in the national database rated their satisfaction as either “Good” or “Excellent.”

“These comparative data show how well Rhode Island nursing homes are doing in making improvements that focus on quality of life and the individual choices of residents,” said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This process allows individuals to give feedback about nursing homes. The report provides information that will assist families in making the best choices for long-term care for loved ones.”

Together with the publicly available quality measure scores and survey performance, the satisfaction scores provide additional information consumers can use to make informed choices when selecting a nursing home. “Importantly, the results also show that more than 90% of residents and family members would recommend their nursing home to people needing skilled care. This testifies to the quality of nursing homes in our state,” said Gail Patry, Director of Long Term Care at Quality Partners of Rhode Island and Chair of the public reporting program’s Nursing Home Subcommittee.

This project is the result of a collaboration by all of the licensed nursing homes in Rhode Island; the Rhode Island Health Care Association; the Rhode Island Association of Facilities and Services for the Aging; the Alliance for Better Long Term Care; the Rhode Island Department of Human Services; the Rhode Island Department of Elderly Affairs; the Rhode Island Long Term Care Coordinating Council; and the Department of Health's contractor, Quality Partners of Rhode Island.

HEALTH Announces Change in Hours for State Office of Vital Records

02-11-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that effective Monday, February 16, 2009, the State Office of vital Records is changing the hours for walk-in service and will only be open to the public Monday through Friday, 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“HEALTH has worked with each city and town to make electronic birth records, dating back to 1980, available at most city and town halls regardless of where the birth happened in the state,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This allows more convenient access for residents and in most cases, means that people don’t have to come to Providence. Requests for vital records can also be mailed to the State Office of Vital Records.”

In 2008, the Office of Vital Records assisted more than 18,000 customers in person and processed nearly 9,000 mail requests from Rhode Island and from out of state.

Three Healthcare Professionals Sanctioned In Wrong-Site Surgery Case

02-17-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (BMLD) and Board of Nursing, has completed its investigation of the health professionals involved in the wrong-site surgery done at The Miriam Hospital (TMH) in September 2008. Three healthcare professionals – one physician and two nurses, received a sanction of reprimand. In addition, the two nurses must participate in patient safety activities on the prevention of wrong-site surgeries and present at least one “lessons learned” to their peers.

Upon initial investigation of the incident in the fall, several problems in the hospital’s surgery program were identified, including failure to follow TMH’s policy to visually inspect the surgical site during the time-out, (which is the last step prior to starting surgery to verify the correct patient, surgery and surgical site) to use indelible ink to mark the site and to verify the original source of information related to the surgery and site

“This finding completes HEALTH’s investigation of this incident,” said Chief Administrative Officer of the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS. “Although we determined that systemic issues contributed to this wrong-site procedure, it does not absolve healthcare professionals from individual accountability to meet acceptable standards of practice. This finding also emphasizes that the entire healthcare team has responsibility for consistently practicing patient-safety policies.”

“Nurses play a critical role in ensuring everyone follows protocol and in creating a culture of patient safety,” said Director of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education Pamela L. McCue, RN, MS. “While we need to hold all nursing professionals accountable for their actions, our primary goal is to prevent this type of incident from reoccurring.”

HEALTH Report Shows Uncompensated Care at Hospitals Increased

02-23-2009

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released RI Uncompensated Hospital Care (2007). The report details the amount of uncompensated care (charity care and bad debt) that hospital patients receive, the demographics of charity care patients and the financial burden of this uncompensated care on the hospitals.

In 2007, patients received $49.7 million in charity care, and the net cost of this care to the hospitals was $36.5 million. In addition, charity care accounted for 1.41% of patient revenue - an increase of 32% from 2006.

In 2007, $57.1 million worth of patient care was considered to be bad debt, and the net cost of this to the hospitals was $37.3 million. Bad debt accounted for 1.43% of patient revenue – an increase of 8% from 2006.

“Our state’s hospitals deliver medically necessary services without regard to a patient’s ability to pay,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Although uncompensated care is a relatively small portion of patient revenue, we need to continue to examine how hospitals provide necessary care for the indigent while maintaining their own financial solvency. In 2007, Rhode Island had 113,000 uninsured residents, and hospitals are the healthcare providers of last resort for acute, inpatient services for the uninsured.”

New Public Breastfeeding Law Takes Effect March 1, 2009

02-26-2009

A new Rhode Island law that allows a woman to breastfeed or bottle-feed her child in any place open to the public will take effect on March 1, 2009. This law complements a pre-existing law that exempted breastfeeding mothers from indecent exposure laws but did not provide them with the explicit right to breastfeed a child in any public place. The new law further permits a woman to allege a violation of her civil rights if she is prevented from breastfeeding in public.

“Breastfeeding protects mothers and their babies from numerous health risks and results in significant cost savings for families, the healthcare system, and employers who support breastfeeding families,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “At a time when the state budget and healthcare system are stretched beyond capacity, promoting breastfeeding is a smart and cost-effective healthcare strategy,” he said. “Breastfed children also have a lower risk for becoming overweight or obese in childhood and later in life,” he added.

A breastfeeding mother needs to feed her baby whenever the baby is hungry to satisfy her baby and build up and maintain her milk supply. Because young babies need to eat from 8 to 12 times every 24 hours, breastfeeding mothers often need to breastfeed when they are away from home. "Too often, mothers are asked to stop breastfeeding, to move to a private location, or to cover themselves up when they breastfeed at a playground, at the airport, in a restaurant, or in other public places," explains Dr. Laura Viehmann, a pediatrician in Pawtucket and Breastfeeding Coordinator for the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "This law ensures that a mother who breastfeeds her child in public has the same protection as a woman who bottle-feeds her child."

Dr. Viehmann chairs the Physicians' Committee for Breastfeeding in Rhode Island, a group of health care professionals that successfully advocated for the new law and a 2003 law that requires employers to make a reasonable effort to provide a breastfeeding mother with flexible breaks and a safe, clean, private place to pump breastmilk or breastfeed her child.

HEALTH's Forensics Unit Receives National Accreditation

03-05-2009

Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced that the Forensic Sciences Unit at the State Laboratory received accreditation from Forensic Quality Services, International (FQS-I). This accreditation ensures that the Forensics Unit has met and maintains acceptable standards in the areas of safety, quality assurance, records management, laboratory equipment and evidence control. The assessment included controlled substance analysis, toxicology, biology, DNA analysis and the DNA database (CODIS).

“One of HEALTH’s goals is to provide law enforcement officials, the judicial system and the general public with high-quality forensic scientific services,” said Director of the State Laboratory Ewa King, PhD. “This accreditation is the gold standard for measuring the quality of forensic laboratories and the achievement demonstrates that our services meet and adhere to the requirements of the forensic community.”

“I commend the staff for the hard work and dedication required to reach this quality benchmark,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Our Forensics Unit has been credited with being a great asset to law enforcement. This accreditation only reinforces that.”

HEALTH’s Forensic Unit receives about 6,000 cases each year from law enforcement agencies in the state.

Report Details Impact of Sexual Orientation on Teens

03-06-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (RIDE) released the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and unsure/questioning (LGBU) high school students. This was the first year that questions about sexual orientation appeared on the YRBS.

The results indicate that some 10% of high school students identified themselves as gay, lesbian or unsure. Overall, LGBU students had a greater risk for 27 of 30 behaviors as compared to heterosexual students, emphasizing the need for interventions to address behavioral and mental health care needs of all youth. Key findings show that LGBU students are:

  • Four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past 12 months;
  • Almost three times more likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon at school;
  • More than twice as likely to be hit, slapped, or hurt by a girlfriend or boyfriend;
  • Three times more likely to have had forced sexual intercourse and
  • Four times more likely to have not attended school due to unsafe feelings.

“As we get feedback from LGBU students about the issues they face, HEALTH can partner with schools and community agencies to develop interventions to reduce the health risk behaviors that impact LGBU students,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH.

“Students who are healthy and who make wise decisions about their health risks and their behavior are better prepared to succeed in school and are more likely to graduate from high school,” said Peter McWalters, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “I am concerned that many lesbian, gay bisexual and unsure or questioning students feel unsafe at school and often miss school because they fear for their safety. RIDE staff members will continue to work with the Statewide Task Force on LGBTQQ Youth to help alleviate these persistent problems in our schools.”

Department of Health Earns Gold Status as Well Workplace

03-12-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced that it received recognition as a Gold Well Workplace from the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) and was ranked as one of America’s Healthiest Companies.

HEALTH offered a self-administered health risk appraisal to help staff identify their risks; on-site aerobics, body sculpting, and yoga classes; healthy cooking demonstrations and a newsletter posted on its Intranet system. In addition, HEALTH hosted a seasonal Farmer’s Market, smoking cessation programs and resources, a flu clinic, stress management seminars, and health screenings.

“The evidence is clear that healthier employees are more productive employees,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We hope to set an example for Rhode Island workplaces by promoting no-cost and affordable opportunities for employees to quit smoking, to eat healthy foods or to get daily exercise.”

WELCOA is a national organization that recognizes workplaces for creative programs and policies that address the wellness needs of their employees around five areas: physical activity, healthy eating/weight management, stress management, tobacco use, and medical self-care.

Public Encouraged to Participate in State-wide Antibiotic Dispensing Drill

03-17-2009

On March 20 and 21, 2009, the State of Rhode Island will conduct an exercise simulating a response to a statewide public health emergency. The purpose of the exercise is to allow responsible state and local agencies to test their ability to bring together resources, receive and distribute materiel from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), activate Point of Dispensing (POD) sites, and distribute medications to the population as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Coordinating agencies include the Office of the Governor, Department of Health, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA), Rhode Island State Police and the Mental Health Retardation & Hospitals (MHRH).

In addition, 10 communities and 11 hospital and treatment centers will participate in the exercise by opening and managing POD centers, which would be used to distribute medications or provide vaccine to the population. (Hospital and treatment center sites are for staff only.)

“By engaging in real-time exercise, we improve our preparedness to protect our citizens should we ever be faced with a real public health emergency,” said Governor Donald L. Carcieri.

State and local response agencies and volunteer organizations, integral to the preparation and execution of PODs, were involved in the planning of the exercise. During the exercise, they will perform their respective roles as they would during an actual emergency.

The public is encouraged to participate in the exercise. To participate, people should show up at their local POD site between 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 21st. Individuals will receive a briefing on the simulated public health threat and receive life-saving medications. Participation should take no more than 20 minutes. Following the exercise, anyone interested in assisting at their community POD in the future should contact their municipal EMA Director. Those interested in participating who require additional information, should call their local EMA office.

“The best way for us to test ourselves is to simulate a real life situation, and public participation is critical to our success,” continued Carcieri. “In addition, this exercise will prepare the public should we ever be faced with a emergency of this scale.”

Funding for municipalities to develop and revise their POD plans and conduct these exercises is provided by the RI Department of Health (HEALTH) utilizing federal funding from the CDC under the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) program.

Point of Dispensing Sites for State-Wide Drill

03-17-2009

The public is encouraged to participate in the state-wide exercise scheduled for Saturday, March 21. People should arrive at any of the local POD sites listed below between noon and 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Participation should take no more than 20 minutes.

  • Burrillville: Burrillville High School, 425 East Ave., Harrisville
  • Charlestown: Charlestown Community/Senior Center, 4890 Old Post Rd., Charlestown
  • Cranston: Park View Middle School, 25 Park View Blvd., Cranston
  • Cumberland: Cumberland High School, 2600 Mendon Rd., Cumberland
  • East Providence: East Providence High School, 2000 Pawtucket Ave., East Providence
  • Lincoln: Lincoln High School, 135 Old River Rd., Lincoln
  • North Smithfield: North Smithfield Junior-Senior High School, 412 Greenville Rd., North Smithfield
  • Pawtucket: Nathaniel Greene Elementary School, 285 Smithfield Ave., Pawtucket
  • Providence: Sisters Dominica Manor, 100 Atwells Ave., Providence
  • West Warwick: Wakefield Hills Elementary School, 505 Wakefield St., West Warwick

HEALTH Sees Increase In Norovirus Cases

03-26-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises people that there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of norovirus infections in the state. HEALTH regularly investigates reports of norovirus clusters in licensed facilities and investigates illness complaints associated with food establishments or other licensed facilities. Since January 1, 22 long-term care facilities have reported noro-like illness and HEALTH laboratories have confirmed norovirus in 14. In addition, HEALTH has investigated reports of noro-like illness at two food establishments and confirmed norovirus in foodhandlers at one.

“Norovirus is a common illness, and frequent handwashing with warm water and soap or an alcohol hand gel is essential to stop the spread of the illness,” said Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS, Chief of HEALTH’s Center for Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases. “It is important that any food handler, healthcare worker or day care worker who has symptoms of norovirus (nausea or vomiting and diarrhea) report the illness to their employer, go home and stay out of work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.”

To prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
  • If you are sick, do not touch ready-to-eat food with your bare hands. In a food establishment, utensils or gloves are required to be used for handling ready-to-eat foods.
  • If you are a food handler, a healthcare worker or a daycare worker who has symptoms of norovirus, report the illness to your employer, go home and stay out of work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize surfaces after someone is sick with norovirus. Use a bleach-based household cleaner. Wash and wipe down the toilet area, faucets and other hard surfaces with a mixture of one tablespoon of bleach to 3 cups of water. If cleaning up vomit or stool, use two tablespoons of bleach to 1 cup water.
  • Dispose sewage properly.
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish. (The water it came from could be contaminated with norovirus from raw sewage in the water.)

Norovirus is a common viral illness that is spread from hand to mouth. Symptoms usually last 24-48 hours and include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

HEALTH Partners Receive Award From Acting U.S. Surgeon General

03-26-2009

Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) congratulates Kids First and Davis Park Revitalization Project for receiving a Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future Champion Award from Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, Acting Surgeon General. Both of these HEALTH-supported projects promote healthier lifestyles for children.

Kids First provides technical assistance to district wellness committees, hosting educational workshops and offering an annual marketplace where vendors can demonstrate healthful products. Kids First is a non-profit organization that coordinates the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition and other activities designed to promote availability of better nutrition and physical activity options for children in the schools and in the community.

Davis Park Revitalization Project facilitates community partnerships that have resulted in the improvement of the built environment (playgrounds, sidewalks, transportation) to encourage physical activity and promote a safe neighborhood. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve the health and well-being of community residents.

The Davis Park Revitalization Project is led by The Elmhurst Clean & Green group that was formed in 2008. The group has been working to draft and implement a rehabilitation plan for Davis Park in Providence.

Flu Is Widespread in RI; It's Not Too Late To Vaccinate

03-27-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports that cases of influenza illnesses in the state have been steadily increasing and as of last week, was widespread in the state. Healthcare facilities are reporting flu outbreaks and HEALTH Laboratories have confirmed the presence of antiviral-resistant influenza in Rhode Island. HEALTH tracks influenza activity in the state and reports it to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) on a weekly basis.

“The best and easiest way to protect yourself from the flu is to get vaccinated,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “There is still flu vaccine available for children and adults in the state. If you have not gotten a flu vaccination this flu season, get one now. Some of the strains of flu we are seeing are antiviral-resistant, so a vaccination is your best line of defense.”

Every year, some 36,000 people in the United States die from influenza and its complications. In the 2008/2009 flu season, 32 children in the United States have died from the flu. (Rhode Island has not had any reported pediatric deaths from flu.) HEALTH provides flu vaccine to all providers in the state at no charge.

Anyone who wants to protect themselves from getting the flu should get a flu vaccination every year. CDC also recommends that it is especially important for the following groups of high-risk individuals to get an annual vaccination:

  • Anyone with chronic health conditions or anyone who cares for them
  • Anyone who cares for infants younger than six months of age
  • Children ages 6 months to 19 years of age
  • Any woman who is pregnant
  • Anyone age 50 and older
  • Anyone who has a weakened immune system
  • Anyone who lives in a long-term care facility
  • Any healthcare worker or household contact who provides direct patient care

HEALTH Promotes Smoke-Free Air In Cars, Homes

03-31-2009

You may have seen the billboard with a dog wearing a gas mask. Or maybe you saw the picture of a young mother holding her child with a caption that reads “Julie smokes two packs a day. So does her baby.” These ads are part of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (HEALTH) campaign encouraging adults not to smoke in homes or in cars, especially if they have children or pets.

Secondhand smoke is involuntarily inhaled by non-smokers. The chemicals in secondhand smoke can cause cancer for anyone. In children, it can trigger asthma attacks and cause ear infections and upper respiratory disease. In homes where smoking occurs, the rate of sudden infant death syndrome is higher than in smoke-free homes. In addition, recent studies show that secondhand smoke can cause oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs, and lung cancer in birds.

“Every year, 53,000 children in Rhode Island are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Children’s lungs are not fully developed and are more susceptible to permanent damage. Any exposure to secondhand smoke is unhealthy and dangerous, particularly to kids and pets.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) reports that secondhand smoke contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic, including more than 50 that can cause cancer. The 2006 Surgeon General’s Report entitled The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke shows that non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25-30% and lung cancer risk by 20-30%.

Blue Cross, United Compare Favorably Against Regional Health Insurers

04-02-2009

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner released the tenth annual RI Health Plans’ Performance Report (2007). This report analyzes the two largest commercial health plans in the state, Blue Cross and United, on 38 separate quality measures which they submit annually to the Department of Health. The two plans are also compared to all commercial health insurers in New England and to the best 10% of health plans in the country.

According to the report, Blue Cross and United performed, in aggregate, somewhat better than average on quality measures when compared to New England cohorts. Blue Cross showed that 11 of 19 quality measures were equivalent to regional averages, five measures were better, and three were lower than the regional average. United showed that 12 of 19 quality measures were equivalent to the regional averages, four measures were better, and three were lower than the regional average. The report also allows for comparisons between the plans.

“These two health plans cover more than 75% of Rhode Islanders who have commercial health insurance,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Patients need to know how their health plan performs. Public reporting ensures health plans are accountable for continuous quality improvement.”

In 2007, this report demonstrated that Rhode Islanders pay less for health insurance than other New Englanders do. The average per person cost of Blue Cross commercial health insurance was 12% less than the New England average ($333 per month vs $379), while United was 14% less ($325 per month vs $379).

“The affordability quality and accessibility of our health care system is everybody’s concern” said Health insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller. “When commercial insurers are held publicly accountable for their performance in these areas, every one benefits.”

Report Details Rhode Island Physicians' Technology Use

04-06-2009

Consider this – you have a medical emergency in the middle of the night. Your regular physician is on vacation, and a colleague is covering the practice. That covering physician needs to have access to your medical history so he can make an informed decision about your treatment at that moment. This is one situation where an electronic medical record can make a difference in the care a patient receives.

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released two reports that show how many individual providers use Health Information Technology on a regular basis. Rhode Island is the first state in the country to measure this. Nearly 40 percent of Rhode Island physicians report using electronic clinical information systems to help care for their patients. In addition, about 25 percent of physicians transmit their prescriptions electronically, or e-prescribe.

“One of the State’s healthcare priorities is to use HIT to increase the efficient delivery of patient care,” said HEALTH Public Reporting Program Director Samara Viner-Brown, MS. “These data help us to see how many physicians are actually using HIT. Patients can see if their physician uses electronic medical records or can find a physician who uses electronic medical records.”

The survey reflects a three-year collaboration to encourage physician reporting in Rhode Island. In 1998, a legislative mandate required HEALTH to publicly report healthcare quality for licensed providers. In 2006, the law was expanded to include reports from individual physicians. HEALTH and public reporting partner Quality Partners of Rhode Island (Quality Partners) identified HIT adoption as a local priority and developed the survey to assess physicians’ technology use.

"Rhode Island becomes part of a growing national trend to measure and report how physicians provide care,” says Quality Partners’ Physician Consultant Deidre Gifford MD, MPH, one of the survey’s lead authors. “One thing that distinguishes our reporting program is the work of our healthcare community to align the public reporting with payment reform and direct assistance to practices in improving care delivery. When those three pieces of the puzzle are all aligned, we expect to see dramatic changes in the way that care is delivered and improved satisfaction among consumers and providers.”

The Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI) will use the survey results to evaluate local trends in HIT adoption. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and UnitedHealthCare of New England plan to use the survey’s results to guide their HIT-based incentive programs.

“We’re pleased to have worked with HEALTH and Quality Partners to measure Rhode Island’s progress towards HIT adoption,” said RIQI President and CEO Laura Adams. “While we understand that technology is not a cure-all, it is certainly a critical foundation for so many of our efforts to improve healthcare quality, safety, and value.”

Sprouts Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

04-09-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of sprout products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious or fatal infections in young children, elderly or anyone with a weak immune system. Distribution of these sprouts included Shaws, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and IGA in Rhode Island.

All items being recalled have a sell-by date code from 03/21/09 through 04/27/09 and are in four ounce plastic containers, with the exception of the 8-ounce Nature’s Promise Organic Alfalfa and the five-pound bag of bulk alfalfa sprouts. There have been no cases of Listeria in Rhode Island in 2009. Anyone who bought an item on the recall list should throw away the product right away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund. The following items have been recalled:

Item UPC Code

  • Specialty Farms Organic Alfalfa Sprouts 8192400052
  • Specialty Farms Organic Sprout Salad 8192400024
  • Specialty Farms Organic Spicy Sprouts 8192400058
  • Specialty Farms Organic Crunchy Sprouts 8192400061
  • Specialty Farms Organic Crunchy Pea Mix 8192400061
  • Specialty Farms Organic Clover Sprouts 8192400042
  • Specialty Farms Lucky Clover Sprouts 8192400091
  • Vermont Sprout House Organic Alfalfa Sprouts 2213601290
  • Vermont Sprout House Organic Clover 2213601293
  • Vermont Sprout House Organic Bean Mix 2213601180
  • Nature’s Promise Organic Zesty Sprouts 8826703903
  • Nature’s Promise Organic Alfalfa Spouts 8826704741
  • Nature’s Promise Organic Alfalfa Sprouts (8 oz) 8826704102
  • Nature’s Promise Organic Sprouts to Munch 8826704100
  • BroccoSprouts Broccoli Sprouts 1509800025
  • BroccoSprouts Salad Blend Broccoli, clover & radish 1509800026
  • BroccoSprouts Deli Blend Broccoli, clover & mustard 1509800027
  • BroccoSprouts Organic Broccoli Sprouts 100% organic 1509800118
  • BroccoSprouts Organic Deli Blend 100% organic broccoli, clover, mustard 1509800120
  • BroccoSprouts Organic Salad Blend 100% organic broccoli, clover,radish 150980119
  • 5 pound bulk alfalfa, plastic bagged sprouts in a box with sticker identifying 5 pound bulk alfalfa, julien dates 069 through 097.

Symptoms of Listeria include high fever, sever headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Rhode Island's Pediatric Flu Vaccination Rates Tops in Nation

04-22-2009

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized Rhode Island’s Childhood Immunziation Program for achieving the highest influenza vaccination coverage rate in the country for children ages six months to 23 months during the 2007/2008 flu season. The award was presented to the Department of Health (HEALTH) at the recent National Immunization Conference.

“HEALTH is proud to lead the nation in childhood immunization efforts,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We want to continue to do the best job of protecting our children from influenza. Many parents may think that flu vaccinations are only for the elderly. But, in fact, they are just as important for children. ”

HEALTH’s Childhood Immunization Program is a universal vaccine program. Through federal funding and with contributions from insurers, all recommended childhood and adolescent vaccines are available to all Rhode Island children from birth through age 18. Healthcare providers receive the vaccine at no cost from the state.

Department of Health Closely Monitors Investigation of Swine Influenza

04-24-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is collaborating and partnering with state, national and international agencies to monitor the investigation of the cases of swine influenza confirmed in California and Texas. There are no known cases in Rhode Island right now.

In accordance with guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HEALTH is:

  • Maintaining open communication with the public and providers.
  • Maintaining influenza surveillance across the state at physician offices, hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care centers.
  • Staying in regular contact with CDC to monitor activity nationally and internationally.
  • Advising healthcare providers with questions to periodically check HEALTH’s website (http://www.health.ri.gov) and CDC’s website (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swine) for the most current information, recommendations and guidelines.
  • HEALTH will be contacting healthcare providers directly and updating the public as we receive new information.

HEALTH Announces Fourth Probable Case of Influenza A H1N1 Virus

05-01-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces a fourth probable case of the H1N1 virus (swine flu). A student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence is considered a probable case because the student is exhibiting symptoms of the flu and recently traveled to New York City. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will do testing to determine if this is a confirmed case. Currently, there are no confirmed cases in Rhode Island.

The student lives off campus and does not use the university’s dining facilities. The student is being treated with antiviral medications and is resting at home. All close contacts of the student have been evaluated and those that HEALTH considers to be at high-risk were given antivirals as a precaution.

Out of an abundance of caution, HEALTH has recommended that Johnson & Wales University cancel all classes and weekend activities at both the Providence and Harborside campuses through Sunday night. HEALTH will gather more detailed epidemiological information over the weekend and will assess whether classes and activities next week will be cancelled.

If any Johnson and Wales student experiences flu-like symptoms (fever and cough or sore throat) and has traveled to an outbreak area, they should go to campus health services or to their primary healthcare provider.

Emergency Registry for Rhode Islanders With Special Needs

05-06-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) have developed a Special Needs Emergency Registry for Rhode Island residents with disabilities, chronic conditions, and special healthcare needs. Rhode Island adults and children with disabilities, chronic conditions and special healthcare needs are urged to register for the Rhode Island Special Needs Emergency Registry. For example, people who use life support systems (e.g., oxygen, respirator, ventilator, dialysis, pacemaker); people who have mobility, vision, speech, cognitive, non-verbal and other disabilities; people who are Deaf; and those with chronic conditions and special healthcare needs.

The intent of the Special Needs Emergency Registry is to have a reliable system for the identification of Rhode Islanders that require special assistance during emergencies. The information provided will be shared with local and state emergency management and responders such as local town/city police or fire. As of today, over 4500 Rhode Islanders have enrolled in the Special Needs Emergency Registry.

“This Special Needs Emergency Registry is a major component of emergency preparedness efforts in Rhode Island,” said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We have seen with other public health emergencies that people with special health care needs had trouble accessing care. By identifying people with special health care needs now, we will be able to plan more appropriately for emergencies.”

If needed during the response to the H1N1 virus (swine flu), HEALTH can use the Special Needs Emergency Registry for the following:

  • Identify Rhode Islanders with chronic conditions, special needs and disabilities who are at higher risk and/or who may need additional assistance.
  • Send direct notification or emergency alert information to Registry enrollees.
  • Maintain an ongoing list of individuals with specific chronic conditions or special healthcare needs that should be considered in the planning process.

Individuals have a choice of either registering online at www.health.ri.gov/emregistry or sending a completed Special Needs Emergency Registry Form (form is located on the HEALTH website www.health.ri.gov or by calling 401-946-9996 or RI Relay 711 TTY). If you do not register online, please mail the completed form to RIEMA, Database Manager, 645 New London Ave, Cranston, RI 02920.

The Registry Form is available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hmong, Cambodian and Lao and in large print, CD-Rom, disc and via the HEALTH website. If you cannot fill out this form on your own, please have a family member or caregiver complete the form and submit on your behalf. Also, if more than one person from a household has a disability, chronic condition or special healthcare needs, each person should submit a separate Special Needs Emergency Registry Form.

Once a Special Needs Emergency Registry Form is submitted, HEALTH will send a GO-KIT to your home to help you begin to prepare for an emergency.

Conference Features Sen. Reed as Keynote, Debut of Student Video Presentation

05-08-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to welcome Senator Jack Reed as keynote speaker at its second annual healthy housing conference on May 11 at Quidnesset Country Club in North Kingstown. At this year’s conference, “Stimulating Healthy Housing” Senator Reed discuss federal housing initiatives and healthy housing legislation. In addition, the conference will feature the premiere viewing of “Our House, Our Health”, an educational video, and will showcase the efforts of fifth-grade students from Charles Fortes Elementary School. This presentation completes a series of classroom discussions and art projects about healthy bodies, healthy homes and a healthy community. Local storytellers Len Cabral and Marc Levitt are in the video.

Healthy Housing Awards will be presented to Senator Reed; RI Kids Count and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for publishing housing facts; Chris Gorham for his work with refugee housing; and a partnership of the RI Energy Office, West Bay Community Action and the Warwick Lead Program for their Healthy Housing demonstration project.

HEALTH Signs Consent Agreement With Rhode Island Hospital Regarding Their Wrong-Sided Surgery

05-15-2009

On May 11, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) was notified by Rhode Island Hospital that a wrong-site surgery had been performed that day in their pediatric surgery department.

Preliminary findings of the hospital’s surgery program include failure to follow hospital policies, inconsistent interpretation of the time out policy, inadequate ongoing physician and nurse training about policy revisions, inadequate hospital-wide prospective assessment of the time out policy as it applies to specific surgeries (e.g. oral surgery, multi-site surgery, vaginal surgery) and inadequate identification and reporting of “near misses” by physicians , nurses and OR staff. (Note: “Near misses” are defined as clinical or administrative problems that could potentially cause or contribute to medical errors that were discovered and reported before an error ever occurs.) Today, HEALTH signed a consent agreement with Rhode Island Hospital for actions they will take to address issues identified to date about this case of wrong site surgery.

“HEALTH is very concerned that this is the fourth wrong-site surgery that has occurred at this facility in recent years,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Even one occurrence is too much. As in most cases, this is not the fault of one individual nor is this fixed by just introducing a checklist. It is clear that the hospital needs to be more diligent about assuring consistent implementation of patient safety standards and continuously evaluating and improving their policy based on feedback from staff who are using the policy. In addition, it is critical that all staff demonstrate competency about using these policies and procedures.”

In response to the preliminary findings, the hospital has signed a consent agreement to:

  • Suspend surgery for each surgical discipline at least two to three hours over the next two weeks to allow staff to complete an in-depth review of their surgical safety policies and procedures.
  • Contract with a patient safety organization within 60 days to develop a robust system for reporting near misses and incorporating those findings into their existing policies and procedures.
  • Create a plan to regularly confirm that all surgical staff are current in their understanding of time out and other surgical safety policies and procedures.
  • Make further modifications to their time out procedures to clarify the visualization of the site marking by the surgical team.

The physician involved in the incident has been referred to the respective professional Board (Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline) for investigation. No one else on the team has been referred for disciplinary action at this time.

HEALTH reminds all patients to closely review surgery plans and their consent forms with surgeons before undergoing any type of surgery or procedure. Patients should make sure the consent forms are legible, understandable and clearly delineate the site and side of surgery without use of abbreviations. In addition, whenever possible, patients should participate with their physician in site markings prior to surgery.

Public Informational Meetings For Hospital Conversion Application Filed By Roger Williams, St. Joseph Health Services, CharterCARE

05-26-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of the Attorney General (AG) announce two opportunities for Rhode Islanders to give comment on the proposed conversion of Roger Williams Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island and CharterCARE Health Partners. HEALTH and AG accepted the application for review earlier this month.

“HEALTH wants Rhode Islanders to give us feedback on this proposed hospital conversion,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Public input in this first-ever hospital conversion application is extremely important.”

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, too, stressed the importance of public input in the proposed hospital conversion, saying, “In a matter that so directly impacts on medical care and health-care services in our state, it’s essential that members of the public make their voices heard and their opinions known. These meetings provide that opportunity.”

The public informational meetings are scheduled for:

  • Wednesday, May 27, 6-8 p.m.; Rhode Island College, Foreman Center Room C, 600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Providence
  • Wednesday, June 3, 10 a.m. – noon; Rhode Island College, Gaige Auditorium, 600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Providence

The public is also invited to submit written comments regarding the proposed hospital conversion. Written comments must be submitted by June 17, 2009.

Reminder Of Public Informational Meeting For Hospital Conversions Application Filed By Roger Williams, St. Joseph Health Services, CharterCARE

06-01-2009

Reminder of Public Informational Meeting for Hospital Conversions Application Filed By Roger Williams, St. Joseph Health Services, CharterCARE

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of the Attorney General (AG) remind Rhode Islanders of the second opportunity to give comment on the proposed conversion of Roger Williams Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island and CharterCARE Health Partners. HEALTH and AG accepted the application for review in May. The initial application is available for review at http://www.health.ri.gov/merger/stjoerogerwilliams/application/questions.pdf

“HEALTH wants Rhode Islanders to give us feedback on this proposed hospital conversion,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Public input in this first-ever hospital conversion application is extremely important.”

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, too, stressed the importance of public input in the proposed hospital conversion, saying, “In a matter that so directly impacts on medical care and health-care services in our state, it’s essential that members of the public make their voices heard and their opinions known. This meetings provide that opportunity.”

The second public informational meeting is scheduled for:

Wednesday, June 3, 10 a.m. – noon; Rhode Island College, Gaige Auditorium, 600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Providence

The public is also invited to submit written comments regarding the proposed hospital conversion. Written comments must be submitted by June 17, 2009.

Summit To Explore Cancer's Burden On Patients, Healthcare System

06-02-2009

In 2009, more than 6,000 Rhode Islanders will be diagnosed with cancer. These newly-diagnosed patients, their caregivers and their families will not only have to deal with procedures, treatments and medications-- they may also have to manage challenges such as prompt access to care, navigating healthcare systems or health insurance and financial issues.

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) along with community partners is presenting the 2009 Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island Summit: The Burden of Cancer in Rhode Island – Partnering to Win. This full-day educational event will be held on June 11, 7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.

“Everyone has been touched by cancer,” said David Rousseau, Chairperson of The Partnership to Reduce Cancer. “ We have all experienced the effects of the diagnosis of cancer on family, friends and loved ones. The purpose of this summit is to educate healthcare providers as well as patients, caregivers and survivors on the access to cancer care, the existing barriers and provide them with the resources needed to navigate these barriers.”

“Cancer effects us all,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “While prevention efforts like smoking cessation, good nutrition and increased physical activity are important, learning about the variety of available resources is important too. There are many helpful programs whose focus is on supporting cancer patients, their families and their caregivers.”

The summit is designed for healthcare professionals, cancer patients, caregivers and family members and survivors. Registration is free but seating is limited. To register, call 401-222-7899 or email pamela.wilson@health.ri.gov by June 5.

Funding for this conference is from a cooperative agreement award from Center For Disease Control and Prevention and is presented in collaboration with American Cancer Society, Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service, Pfizer Oncology, Roger Williams Medical Center and Women & Infants Hospital. The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island is coalition who has come together to provide input in the planning and implementation of programs and services around comprehensive cancer control. This includes promoting cancer prevention, improving cancer detection, increasing access to health and social services, and reducing the burden of cancer.

Rhode Island Joins Six States To Issue Advisories On Striped Bass And Bluefish Consumption

06-03-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), in coordination with six other east coast states, reminds consumers of advisories on striped bass and bluefish consumption. These fish can contain high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware and HEALTH recommend that pregnant women, women considering pregnancy, nursing mothers and children younger than six years of age refrain from eating striped bass and bluefish. In addition, HEALTH recommends that other people eat bluefish or striped bass only once a month.

PCB exposures are of particular concern for children during development and may affect the endocrine system and brain development. Animal studies have shown that PCB exposures can increase cancer risk.

Fish can still be part of a healthy diet, especially when consumers pick a variety of seafood including shellfish, smaller ocean fish, canned fish and farm-raised fish.

H1N1 (Swine) Flu Cases Escalate In RI

06-09-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is seeing that H1N1 (Swine) flu continues to spread both locally and nationally. In Rhode Island, HEALTH has seen an increase in sporadic cases and outbreak clusters throughout the state, including in schools. As of 11 a.m., June 9, there are 39 confirmed positive cases in RI, doubling the case count in less than a week. Rhode Island and national surveillance data indicate increased infections in children, increased infections in individuals with chronic medical conditions, and a generally higher hospitalization rate of those infected. Although most illness in Rhode Island has been mild, compared to seasonal influenza, there is an increase in the number of hospitalizations. Ten of the Rhode Islanders with swine flu have been hospitalized.

“As we expected and planned, we are now seeing an increase in confirmed cases of swine flu in the state,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We are seeing more cases in schools, more hospitalizations and more individuals who have underlying medical conditions being effected. Everyone needs to continue to be vigilant about handwashing, coughing and sneezing into elbows and staying home if they are sick. We expect that this will likely continue throughout the summer and into the fall.”

In April, HEALTH strengthened its surveillance systems to monitor suspected and confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms (fever plus cough or sore throat) at physician sentinel sites, hospitals, emergency rooms, college and university health centers and in all schools (public, private and parochial). This has helped us detect the increase in cases.

To limit the spread of any illness, HEALTH strongly recommends:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow.
  • If you are sick, call your doctor and stay home from work, school or daycare for 7 days after symptoms start or at least 24 hours after symptoms stop, whichever is longer.
  • If you or someone you know is pregnant has flu-like illness (fever plus cough or sore throat), she should call her healthcare provider immediately.

HEALTH Does Not Automatically Recommend Closing Schools

06-16-2009

In the past two weeks, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has seen sporadic cases and outbreak clusters of H1N1 throughout the state, including in schools. At this time in the pandemic due to the mildness of H1N1 overall, both the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and HEALTH do not recommend closing schools to prevent the spread of disease. If a school’s absenteeism rate among students and staff prohibits a school from functioning effectively, school districts may consider closure as an option.

“Because we are not recommending closure of schools to prevent the spread of disease,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH “a decision to close is up to the individual school district. School districts should keep in mind that unplanned closures are very disruptive to the community, and should be used as a last resort. Sporadic cases of swine flu continue to increase in the community at large, therefore minimizing the effect of closing schools on the spread of illness.”

Prevention continues to be the best option to help stop the spread of H1N1 or any other illness.

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gels.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Anyone who is sick with an Influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus cough or sore throat) stay home for 7 days after symptoms begin or until symptoms have stopped for 24 hours, whichever is longer.
  • Call your physician if you would normally do so. Current recommendations for antiviral treatment are not recommended for mild cases without underlying diseases.
  • If you are sick and would normally call the doctor, call the doctor. If your illness can be managed with fluids and rest, you do not automatically have to go to the doctor or to the ER.

HEALTH Announces First Death Due To H1N1 In Rhode Island

06-17-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announces the first death in Rhode Island that is linked to infection of H1N1 virus. The person, a teenage girl from Kent County had underlying medical conditions that increased her risk for serious illness from influenza.

“It is with great sadness that we have learned today of the death of a Rhode Island resident from illness associated with H1N1,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We express our sympathies to the family. While most of the cases we are seeing in Rhode Island are mild illness, there are some people that can have more severe symptoms or can die. People who have underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, immunosuppression or pregnancy are at increased risk for more serious complications from influenza.”

The things everyone should do to help prevent the spread of H1N1 or any illness are:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gels.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Anyone who is sick with an Influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus cough or sore throat) should stay home for 7 days after symptoms begin or until symptoms have stopped for 24 hours, whichever is longer.

As of June 17, at 3 p.m., there have been 94 confirmed cases of H1N1 in Rhode Island and 23 hospitalizations to date due to H1N1.

HEALTH Supports New Tobacco Law

06-23-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) recognizes and applauds the significant public health achievement of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act being signed into law. This new law gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products.

“This is a major milestone in the tobacco control movement,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This legislation will allow the FDA to enforce stricter guidelines regarding tobacco advertising and promotions – especially to children. Every year in Rhode Island, 1,400 children and teens become regular smokers. Many of these kids will die prematurely as a result of smoking. This law will help make it harder for youth to start smoking and make it easier for them to be a non-smoker.”

Each year, tobacco use kills more than 1,600 adult smokers in the state and 1,500 adult non-smokers due to the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke. Tobacco costs the state $506 million annually in healthcare-related costs. Rhode Island is the seventh state in the nation to go smoke-free and currently has the highest cigarette excise tax in the country at $3.46/pack.

The new law will allow the FDA to regulate many aspects of the tobacco industry, including:

  • Ban of candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes
  • Requirement of large, graphic health warnings that cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs
  • Ban of misleading health claims such as "light" or "low-tar”
  • Disclose of the contents of tobacco products, as well as changes in products and research about their health effects

HEALTH Posts Updated H1N1 Camp Advisory

07-01-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) issued an interim health advisory to all summer camp operators regarding the prevention and control of H1N1 at day camps or residential camps.

“HEALTH continues to see cases of H1N1 in the state,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We expect that H1N1 will likely continue through the summer, with a possibility of higher prevalence in camps. All summer camp operators should be implementing aspects of the guidance that apply to their individual camp.”

The advisory contains recommendations for infection control, disease management and general prevention of the spread of illness.

Registration Open For New England Regional Minority Health Conference

07-03-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) Office of Minority Health invites healthcare providers and community partners to attend the sixth annual New England Regional Minority Health Conference, scheduled for October 14 – 16 in Providence. The theme of this year’s conference is From Disparities to Equity: The Power to Make Change. This event provides an opportunity to share proven regional and national strategies that effectively work to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities.

Racism, oppression and discrimination play a role in the health and well-being of our citizens. Be part of this national movement to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities by attending this conference.

The 49 presentations over this 3-day event will highlight best practices of building and enhancing partnerships that influence health policy change for some of the region’s most vulnerable populations. Participants can expect to share ideas and tools about programs and campaigns that can be adapted for use in their individual community. One goal of this conference is to promote collaboration of federal, state and community partners to address health disparities and improve the health and quality of life for all racial and ethnic minority communities. Cultural art performances will be featured throughout the conference. It is an event you don't want to miss.

Continuing education units (CEUs) have been approved for registered nurses (10.5 contact hours for 3 days) and community health educators (10.5 contact hours for 3 days).

Rhode Island Ranks Fourth Lowest In Nation In Overall Obesity Rates

07-07-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is pleased to announce that Rhode Island now has the fourth lowest overall obesity rate (21%) in the country. The reports also shows that the percentage of Rhode Island children who are overweight or obese is 26% and that 24% of Rhode Island adults are physically inactive. This information comes from the recent release of the report F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To read the full report, visit http://healthyamericans.org/reports/obesity2009/

“The good news is that overall, Rhode Island has seen some improvement in obesity rates; however, 1 in 5 Rhode Island adults is obese,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Unfortunately, we did not see an improvement in childhood obesity rates. It is critical to instill healthy eating habits and a desire to be physically active early in children’s lives. Reducing childhood obesity plays a key role in preventing future health problems like diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.”

The report calls for a national strategy to combat obesity that includes policy change. HEALTH supported legislation this year to require restaurant menus to include a calorie count for all items on the menu. “Connecticut and Massachusetts have passed menu labeling legislation,” said Gifford. “It is time for Rhode Island to join its neighbors in this important public health effort.” Beginning in September 2009, all schools in the state will be required to implement nutrition standards in school lunch programs that exceed federal standards. In addition, by October 2012, all public schools will be required to implement a performance-based physical education program. The report recommends that states continue supporting improved access to healthy and affordable foods and assuring insurance coverage for nutrition and obesity counseling.

HEALTH has determined that many unhealthy trends in the state and in the country contribute to the obesity epidemic. They include:

  • Americans consume an average of 300 more calories a day than they did in 1984.
  • Healthy foods cost more than unhealthy foods.
  • Americans walk less and drive more.
  • Parks and recreation spaces are not always safe or well maintained.
  • Children watch more TV and play more video and computer games.

HEALTH Announces Second Death Due To H1N1 In Rhode Island

07-07-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announces the second death in Rhode Island that is linked to infection of H1N1 virus. The person, an adult woman from Providence County, had underlying medical conditions that increased her risk for serious illness from influenza.

“Sadly, we have confirmed the second death of a Rhode Island resident from illness associated with H1N1,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We express our sympathies to her family and friends. This is a reminder that H1N1 is in Rhode Island and continues to spread. Most cases we are seeing in Rhode Island are mild illness; however, anyone with underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, immunosuppression or pregnancy can have more severe symptoms or can die.”

We have seen 58 hospitalizations and two deaths so far in Rhode Island. This underscores the need for everyone to be vigilant in taking steps to prevent getting this illness. The things everyone should do to help prevent the spread of H1N1 or any illness are:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gels.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Anyone who is sick with an Influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus cough or sore throat) should stay home for 7 days after symptoms begin or until symptoms have stopped for 24 hours, whichever is longer.

HEALTH Identifies Remains as Joseph "Joe Onions" Scanlon

07-15-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) positively identified the human remains found in East Providence in November 2008 as those of Joseph “Joe Onions” Scanlon and the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.

The Office of the Medical Examiners (OSME) and the State Police collected skeletal remains from the site in November. The OSME then identified the remains and determined the cause of death. To identify the remains, the OSME used forensic anthropology and DNA analysis. Forensic anthropology helps to provide a cause of death, identity, any injury or trauma and approximate length of time the remains were in the ground.

“We hope that this information will bring closure for the family,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This death occurred 30 years ago. We hope this gives them peace. HEALTH is also pleased to be able to assist our law enforcement colleagues in closing a case.”

In addition to determining the cause of death, the OSME also had to positively identify the remains. Dental records, fingerprints or previous x-rays were not available, so the OSME needed to use DNA analysis to determine identity. “Investigators from OSME and State Police had to locate immediate family and collect a DNA sample for comparison,” said Chief Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson, MD. “Because the DNA analysis for this case was so highly specialized, the femur and DNA samples from the family were sent to the University of North Texas for analysis.”

The results from the DNA analysis determined that the skeletal remains were those of Joseph Scanlon.

HEALTH Issues Findings Of Inspection At Kent Hospital

07-17-2009

On June 19, Kent Hospital (Kent) notified Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) of a wrong-site procedure in the interventional radiology department. A patient had a long-term IV catheter (PICC) inserted into the incorrect arm. During HEALTH’s on-site inspection, Kent reported a second case where a patient had dye for an x-ray injected into the wrong hip.

HEALTH discovered several problems in the hospital’s interventional radiology department including failure to follow established hospital time out procedures for six out of eight cases reviewed, radiology equipment that had not been inspected or had out-of-date inspections and unqualified staff using radiology equipment. A detailed description of the findings from the inspection can be found in the deficiency report (see http://www.health.ri.gov/discipline/hospitals/KentFindings200907.pdf). Inspection of the OR and cardiac catheterization lab at Kent found no problems.

In response to the deficiencies, Kent signed a consent agreement that outlines steps they must take to correct their deficiencies. In addition Kent’s Interventional Radiology Department has been put on probation for at least six months due to the pervasive problems identified. Each of Kent’s interventional radiologists is being referred to the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline to determine if any disciplinary action should be taken.

“With the recent state-wide focus of preventing medical errors in hospital operating rooms, this is particularly concerning,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “While we determined this issue is isolated to the interventional radiology department, the fact that the efforts in the operating room were not being adopted in the interventional radiology department is unacceptable.”

The hospital signed a consent agreement that includes:

  • Hire a consultant to evaluate interventional radiology policies and protocols for compliance with national best practices and then reports to HEALTH on their recommendations.
  • Observe and monitor the interventional radiology department and submit monthly reports to HEALTH for six months.
  • Contract with a patient safety organization (PSO).
  • Provide continuing education for the radiology staff and develop an education plan for any newly hired radiology staff in the future.
  • Provide proof of up-to-date inspections for all radiology equipment within two weeks.

HEALTH Approves Roger Williams Hospital, St. Joseph's Health Services Affiliation

07-17-2009

The Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has approved the hospital conversion application, with conditions, submitted by Roger Williams Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Health Services of Rhode Island and CharterCARE Health Partners. In addition, he has also accepted the recommendation of the Health Services Council (HSC) to approve the change in effective control (CEC) application for the organizations involved.

This application was reviewed under the Hospital Conversions Act (HCA). The Act assures that the access, affordability and quality of care is maintained or improved after the affiliation takes place. The final decision provides a 58-page summary of HEALTH’s findings, a rationale for HEALTH’s decision, a set of conditions that must be met before the affiliation occurs and a list of actions and regular reports that must be submitted to HEALTH once the affiliation occurs.

“HEALTH’s review of this application has been comprehensive and deliberate and incorporates input from the community,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Our expectation is that CharterCARE will allow St. Joseph’s Health Services and Roger Williams Hospital and Medical Center to address challenges facing each institution and gain efficiencies under one organization so they can provide quality, affordable, accessible care.”

The application also needs approval from the Office of the Attorney General.

Women's Health Fair Offers Skin Cancer Screening, HPV Vaccination

08-11-2009

Prevention is one of the best ways to protect good health. Women ages 16-26 are invited to attend the first Prevent & Protect Phun Phair on Thursday, August 13, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. at The Wellness Company, 132A George M. Cohan Blvd., Providence. Attendees will have the opportunity to receive a vaccine, at no cost, that protects against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a cause of cervical cancer. The event will also provide free DermaScans to check for sun exposure and present facts about skin cancer.

This event is being hosted by The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, a statewide coalition funded by the Rhode Island Department of Health, in conjunction with The Wellness Company.

Every year, some 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 4,000 women die from this disease in the country. In 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to add the HPV vaccine to the recommend adolescent and adult immunization schedule. In addition, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the country with more than 1 million people diagnosed annually. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon together. Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either skin cancer at least once and this rate is increasing.

The fair is free. For more information or directions, call 401-490-0942 or e-mail: aip@thewellcomp.com. Women younger than 18 must be accompanied by parent or guardian. Women older than 18 should bring health insurance information, but health insurance is not required to attend.

Funding for this conference is from a cooperative agreement award from Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

Investment Losses Cause Financial Health of RI Hospitals to Worsen in 2008

08-28-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today released The Health of Rhode Island’s Hospitals (2008), which details the financial performance of Rhode Island’s 13 hospitals from 2005 to 2008. While the report found Rhode Island hospitals to be more profitable than other hospitals in the Northeast in 2007, local hospitals’ financial performance declined in 2008. Overall, Rhode Island hospitals experienced a 12% loss in the net worth in 2008 which was mainly attributable to losses in their investments, not it declines of patient revenue. Patient revenue increased 6% from 2007 to 2008.

The report compares the state’s hospitals to other hospitals in the Northeast and to a group of the highest-performing hospitals in the country. It also ranks Rhode Island’s individual facilities based on 12 separate measures over four years. It determined that Newport Hospital, Bradley Hospital, and Butler Hospital, respectively, to be the state’s top-performing hospitals. Finally, the report evaluates the financial performance of the two hospital systems (Lifespan and Care New England) as compared to the independent hospitals. The report shows that the network hospitals performed significantly better than the independent hospitals on most measures.

“These hospitals play a critical role in Rhode Island’s healthcare system and have a significant impact on local economies,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This report underscores the challenges that all of the hospitals are facing in maintaining their financial health in the current economy. In addition, we must continually evaluate how the independent community hospitals fit into Rhode Island’s broader healthcare system.”

Cookies Recalled Due to Undeclared Allergens

08-31-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises consumers of molasses cookies that may contain peanut butter and milk. These two items are considered undeclared allergens. People who have an allergy to peanuts and/or milk can have a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they eat these cookies.

This voluntary recall affects 167 cases of Stop and Shop Home Town Bakery Old Fashioned Molasses Cookies (net wt. 8.9 oz.) with UPC 6-88267-08457-7 and a “sell by Feb. 22, 2010 A” printed on the side of the package. This product is sold in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Maine and New Jersey.

No other Stop and Shop brand products are affected by this recall, and there have been no reports of illness or allergic reactions. Consumers can return any affected product to the store where it was purchased and receive a full refund.

Boil Water Advisory Issued for Bristol County Water Authority

09-08-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing a boil water advisory for customers of the Bristol County Water Authority water system. HEALTH recommends that water being used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, cooking or bathing of infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. All water should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Bottled water can also be used.

Water system tests confirmed the presence of E. coli bacteria in the public water supply. The water system is working closely with HEALTH to correct the problem as soon as possible.

The presence of E. coli bacteria indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. These bacteria can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or headaches. Infants, young children and anyone with a weakened immune system is at an increased risk for developing more severe symptoms. Residents who experience any of these symptoms, even if tap water has been avoided, should call their healthcare provider.

This boil water advisory is in effect until further notice from HEALTH. Customers of the Bristol County Water Authority water system are asked to contact neighbors who may not be aware of this advisory.

Department of Health Unveils H1N1 Flu Vaccination Campaign Plans; Encourages Early Seasonal Flu Vaccination

09-10-2009

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces plans for H1N1 vaccination efforts this fall and encourages Rhode Islanders to get a seasonal flu vaccine now. Vaccination is the easiest and most effective way to protect against the flu.

“Right now, we are encouraging everyone aged six months and older to get a seasonal flu vaccination,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Seasonal flu vaccine is available now at providers’ offices, public clinics and workplaces. Seasonal flu vaccination is especially important this year because of the H1N1 pandemic. Although the seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection against H1N1 influenza, it will provide protection against seasonal flu, which is also expected to be circulating this fall and winter.”

HEALTH and its partners are preparing to embark on an aggressive, three-month H1N1 vaccination campaign. It is expected to begin in October and continue through December. As vaccine supply allows, our first priority for H1N1 vaccinations, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be children and pregnant women, healthcare workers and household contacts/caregivers for infants younger than 6 months of age. Current plans for the H1N1 vaccination by target population and vaccination venue include:

  • Children, 6 months to 5 years of age at: Pediatric healthcare provider offices
  • Children, grades K-12 at: School vaccination clinics
  • Pregnant women at: Birthing hospitals, prenatal care provider offices
  • Household contacts/caregivers of infants younger than 6 months at: Provider offices, public clinics
  • Healthcare workers, first responders at: Hospital-based (Healthcare Service Region) clinics
  • Young adults, age 19-24 years of age at: College/university clinics, public clinics

“Any provider who wants to give H1N1 vaccinations to their patients needs to register with the H1N1 Vaccination Program ,” said Dr. Gifford. “It is especially important for any provider who treats chronically ill patients to enroll in the program so those who are at the highest risk for complications from H1N1 can be vaccinated.”

HEALTH requests licensed medical volunteers (e.g. nurses, doctors, pharmacists, EMTs) to assist with H1N1 vaccination efforts. Any licensed medical professional who is interested in volunteering can register at www.riresponds.org.

The symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches or runny nose. People are most likely to spread flu germs when they have a fever. Prevention measures that everyone can practice include:

  • Wash your hand frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol hand gel.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Anyone with influenza-like illness (ILI) stay home from work, school or daycare until they are fever-free for 24 hours, without the help of fever-reducing medicines like Tylenol
  • Do not touch your eyes or mouth after sneezing or coughing.
  • Do not share eating utensils, drinks or water bottles.

Every year, approximately 36,000 people in the country die from seasonal influenza and its complications. Seasonal flu typically affects people age 65 and older. This flu season, HEALTH anticipates that as many as 30% of the people in Rhode Island could get H1N1. Most people will experience mild illness; however, people with underlying medical conditions like heart and lung disease, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, diabetes or a weakened immune system can have more severe symptoms, be hospitalized or die.

Bristol County Water Authority Customers Offered Two Water Distribution Stations

09-10-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is notifying customers of the Bristol County Water Authority of two locations where they can get water that is safe to drink. Customers should bring containers for the water. The locations are:

Riverside: Carousel at intersection of Bullocks Point Avenue and Crescent View Avenue, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Warren: 472 Child Street (pumping station), 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

HEALTH reminds customers of the Bristol County Water Authority that a boil water advisory is still in effect. Any water that will be used for drinking, cooking or bathing infants should be boiled for one minute and allowed to cool before using.

Health Department Lifts Boil Advisory for Bristol County Water Authority Customers

09-11-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is notifying customers of the Bristol County Water Authority that the boil water advisory put in place earlier this week has been lifted. The water is safe to use for drinking, cooking and bathing infants and no longer needs to be boiled before use.

Water testing from multiple points in the distribution system confirms that the water system no longer contains e. coli bacteria. Bristol County Water Authority will resume routine testing of the water quality and will continue to report results to HEALTH.

Customers and businesses are advised to:

  • Flush faucets that have not been used since Tuesday, September 8. (Let water run for 10 minutes.)
  • Replace water treatment filter cartridges.
  • Sanitize refrigerator water and ice makers.

“We appreciate the patience and cooperation of residents and town officials during the past week,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “One of the cornerstones of public health is to assure safe drinking water. The monitoring systems we have in place were successful in preventing illness.”

For more information, contact Pasquale DeLise of the Bristol County Water Authority office at 245-2033 or HEALTH’s Information Line at 222-5960.

Rhode Island Department of Health, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency Host Pandemic Influenza & Special Needs Leadership Training Program

09-14-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) have joined forces to host the Pandemic Influenza & Special Needs Leadership Training Program on September 15th, 16th and 17th at the Radisson Airport Hotel in Warwick.

National and state leaders, including the Federal Emergency Management agency (FEMA), will present strategies to prepare for, respond to and recover from an influenza pandemic. This training can be applied to the ongoing H1N1 response efforts. Individuals with chronic medical conditions and special healthcare needs are at higher risk for complications from influenza. Therefore, a special emphasis of the training program will be placed on planning for special needs populations, including children and adults with underlying medical conditions.

“People who get H1N1 will get sick. Most will have mild illness; however, anyone with underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, immunosuppression or pregnancy can have more severe symptoms.” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This underscores the importance of planning for the needs of special populations, many of whom are a high risk for complications from influenza. We are please to be able to work with our colleagues at RIEMA to offer this training.”

More than 600 Rhode Islanders, including representing state agencies, community organizations, healthcare providers, emergency management officials, first responders, and individuals, will participate in the training. The training will focus on the importance of personal preparedness. Attendees will learn about the essential items that should be included in a personal readiness kit. Community organizations will also have the opportunity to participate in a strategy session focused on developing Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans.

Landmark, Caritas Christi To Enter Discussions

09-24-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today attended a hearing where Landmark Medical Center has received approval from the Superior Court to enter into discussions with Caritas Christi Health Care (Caritas Christi) regarding a perspective partnership.

“Landmark is an integral part of Rhode Island’s health care delivery system,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Although Landmark has had its struggles financially, they deliver care to thousands of northern Rhode Islanders. I am hopeful today’s announcement will bring much needed financial stability to Landmark.

Included in the Caritas Christi healthcare system is St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River and Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton. Under the rules and regulations of the Healthcare Conversion Act (HCA), any request for a hospital merger must be submitted to HEALTH and to the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General.

“I look forward to meeting with Caritas Christi, to gain a better understanding of their operations and potential benefits this merger can bring to northern Rhode Island,” added Gifford.

Department of Health Issues West Nile Virus, EEE Prevention Advisory

09-25-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is issuing an advisory to remind people of precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses. In Rhode Island, mosquitoes have tested positive for both West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

“This year’s wet weather has helped to create more ideal situations for mosquito breeding in Rhode Island and in other New England states,” said Chief of HEALTH’s Center for Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS. “This is a reminder to all Rhode Islanders about the proper precautions to avoid mosquito bites that can cause illnesses such as WNV or EEE.”

Protect yourself:

  • Use bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Make sure that bug spray does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
  • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.
  • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
  • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.

Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:

  • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
  • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week.
  • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
  • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.
  • Help your neighbors, friends and family do the same things.

Most people who are infected with WNV or EEE will not have any type of illness. People who do develop symptoms may have fever, headache and body aches or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, or paralysis. The elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness with WNV and EEE. For more information, call your doctor, visit www.health.ri.gov or call 222-5960.

Department of Health Revokes Lead Inspector License

09-30-2009

The RI Department of Health (HEALTH) has revoked the license for Carl Truax, a RI Certified Environmental Lead Inspector Technician. The license was revoked because HEALTH determined that Truax had filed false lead inspection reports in violation of regulatory requirements for both the Housing Resources Commission lead mitigation regulations and HEALTH’s regulations for the prevention of lead poisoning.

“To reach our goal of eliminating lead poisoning in Rhode Island, HEALTH relies on the integrity of trained lead professionals, “ said Director of HEALTH David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Rhode Islanders need assurance that approved lead inspections are accurate. Parents need to know that their homes are safe and healthy.”

The order pertaining to Truax’s violations concerns 12 rental properties (11 in Providence and one in Bristol) for inspections performed in 2008 and 2009. The original complaint was filed by the Childhood Lead Action Project, which documented that some properties that had just received Certificates of Conformance from Truax had patches of damaged paint and other obvious violations.

“We want to thank the Childhood Lead Action Project for bringing this problem to our attention,” said Noreen Shawcross, director of the Housing Resources Commission. “More than 25,000 dwelling units in Rhode Island have received Certificates of Conformance as required by our regulations. Landlords have a legal responsibility to make sure their properties are safe and that their tenants are protected from lead hazards.”

“We're pleased that the Department of Health and the Housing Resources Commission are cracking down on lead inspectors who violate the law and put children at risk.” said Roberta Hazen Aaronson, Executive Director of the Childhood Lead Action Project. “With far too many children still being lead poisoned, it's important for the State to take this necessary action to uphold lead safety standards.”

New WIC Food Package Offers Healthier Foods, More Options

10-02-2009

After 35 years, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program is changing its food package. Some 28,000 Rhode Island WIC participants will now have new food options from which to choose and have access to healthier food choices.

“Since WIC was established more than three decades ago, there have been significant strides made in knowledge about nutrition and healthy eating,” said WIC Chief Ann Barone. “WIC’s new food package will bring WIC up to date with current recommendations about what families should be eating to stay healthy.”

The new package aligns with the dietary guidelines for Americans and recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It also offers greater variety for cultural or personal food preferences, strengthens breastfeeding support for new mothers and provides more infant foods to meet a child’s changing nutritional needs.

The new food package allows for greater variety in several areas. WIC families will now be able to choose from a broad range of fresh fruits and vegetables (including green bananas, bok choy and bean sprouts), whole-grain foods (including breads, tortillas and brown rice), soy milk and tofu products.

To encourage healthier eating habits, the new food package promotes a diet lower in saturated fat and smaller amounts of juice. While foods like eggs, cheese and whole milk are still available to WIC clients, smaller amounts will encourage families to consume them in moderation.

Passage of Regulation 14 Increases Access to Tobacco Cessation Programs

10-06-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) applauds the recent passage of Regulation 14, which requires that health insurers offer more options for tobacco cessation programs that are a covered benefit. It is expected that this new regulation will help Rhode Islanders be more successful in attempts to quit smoking.

“Each year, tobacco use claims the lives of more than 1,600 adult smokers in our state and adds $506 million to healthcare-related costs,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Each person that is trying to quit is unique. By offering more variety in treatment strategies that are covered by health insurance, we are giving more options to help them succeed and be tobacco free.”

The Rhode Island Tobacco Control Program (RITCP) provides a Quitline service for Rhode Islanders (1-800-TRY-TO-STOP). RITCP also partners with the Rhode Island Health Centers Association to provide tobacco cessation services for the uninsured tobacco users in the state.

In addition, The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, a statewide cancer coalition funded by HEALTH, has a prevention workgroup whose objectives and strategies regarding tobacco are coordinated with RITCP’s Annual Action Plan.

Certain prescription medications and outpatient counseling will now be included as covered tobacco cessation benefits. In addition, the new regulation will:

  • Establish uniform standards for cessation treatment coverage
  • -Include recent clinical practice guidelines in definition of cessation treatments
  • Improve transparency of tobacco cessation coverage for Rhode Island ’s insured population

HEALTH, Johnson & Wales University Aim to Promote Healthy Food Options at Local Restaurants

10-07-2009

The team: A local restaurant and a culinary student from Johnson & Wales University. The goal: Create a healthier version of a menu item without sacrificing flavor and taste. The prize: Helping Rhode Islanders make the healthy choice the easy choice when dining out.

On Monday, October 12, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and Johnson & Wales University (JWU) will host a Healthy Restaurant Forum that is designed to promote the benefits of buying local, fresh ingredients and of adding healthy options to the menu.

“More people than ever are dining out,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “At the same time, obesity is a growing epidemic in this country with an economic impact reaching $147 billion dollars. One of the goals of HEALTH’s Initiative For a Healthy Weight Program is to make healthy food choices the most appealing and easiest choice.”

The forum will feature 12 local restaurants including: Gracies, Chelos, Nick’s on Broadway, Greggs, Pinelli Mara Group, Dave’s Market, El Rancho Grande, Local 121, La Laiterie and Persimmon. Anyone who attends will be able to taste the culinary creations made from the freshest whole grains, fruits, meats, vegetables and a variety of delicious items. In addition, representatives from the National Restaurant Association and from the Center for Science in the Public Interest will speak about the impact of menu labeling on sales and customer satisfaction. The economic impacts of buying local produce and food safety practices will also be discussed.

“This forum is just the beginning of a winning relationship,” says culinary expert Bill Idell from Johnson & Wales. “We hope that, going forward, our students will benefit from co-op partnerships with these restaurants. We think that we have all the ingredients for success.”

The event runs from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at 265 Harborside Blvd, Providence and is free and open to the public.

Rhode Island Department of Health Issues Update on H1N1 Vaccine Ordering, Distribution

10-08-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announces that the first shipment of H1N1 intranasal vaccine will be distributed to pediatricians and family practitioners early next week. Because initial supplies of vaccine will initially be in small quantities, the available intranasal spray or injectable vaccine is restricted for use with children ages 6 months to five years of age. The remainder of H1N1 vaccine shipments in the next 8 weeks will be used for pregnant women and all school-age children for use in school-based clinics in grades K to 12. All others will get the vaccine starting in December.

Each provider who is enrolled in the H1N1 Vaccination Program must tell HEALTH how many people they will vaccinate and break down that information by population group. HEALTH will base distribution decisions on this information. Rhode Islanders are asked not to call providers only to ask about H1N1 vaccine availability. Providers and HEALTH will provide updated information to patients as vaccine is delivered.

“Rhode Island’s goal remains to vaccinate as many children and pregnant women first because they are two of the most vulnerable populations and are the main groups getting sick,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “In total, CDC indicates that Rhode Island is estimated to receive more than 600,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine by the end of flu season; however, in the next eight weeks, the estimated number and types of vaccine to be delivered will only be sufficient to vaccinate children and pregnant women.”

It is expected that school-based clinics will begin the first week in November. In the next two weeks, parents will receive information about H1N1 vaccine clinics in their child’s school. They will also get a consent form that must be completed and returned to the school prior to vaccination. HEALTH reminds all parents that H1N1 vaccination is voluntary.

Vaccinations for the other populations are anticipated to begin in early December. Those groups include healthcare workers and first responders, young adults up to age 24, anyone age 25-64 with an underlying medical condition and household contacts or caregivers of infants younger than six months of age. Elderly (age 65 and older) and healthy adults ages 25 through 64 will be vaccinated in January.

Rhode Island Department of Health Needs Volunteers to Staff H1N1 Clinics in Schools

10-13-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is seeking medical volunteers to assist with the H1N1 vaccination campaign for school-aged children. It is expected that students in grades K through 12 will be vaccinated in school-based clinics in November.

“We will need to vaccinate students at some 430 public, private and parochial schools,” said Chief of the Center for Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS. “This effort is a massive undertaking. We are asking health professionals and nursing, medical or pharmacy students who can help with vaccinations to consider volunteering their time. We have had a great response so far, but we need more volunteers.”

Any health professional or student interested in volunteering must register at http://www.riresponds.org. (Use the button that says “register today”.) All volunteers are required to attend a training session before giving H1N1 vaccinations. H1N1 Vaccinator Training Sessions are scheduled for:

  • October 15, 2009-6:00-9:00pm
  • October 19, 2009-6:00-9:00pm
  • October 22, 2009-6:00-9:00pm
  • October 24, 2009-9:00am-Noon
  • October 26, 2009- 6:00-9:00pm
  • October 29, 2009-6:00-9:00pm

All trainings are given at 50 Barnett Lane, West Greenwich, RI 02817.

Volunteer recruitment and management is coordinated by RI Responds. RI Responds is a collaborative effort between HEALTH, RI Disaster Medical Assistance Team and RI Medical Reserve Corps.

Women's Health Event Offers No-Cost HPV Vaccination, Seasonal Influenza Vaccine and Cancer Prevention information

10-14-2009

Prevention is one of the best ways to protect good health. Women ages 16-26 are invited to attend the 2nd Prevent & Protect Health Event on Saturday, October 17, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at The Wellness Company, 132A George M. Cohan Blvd., Providence.

Attendees will have the opportunity to receive a vaccine, at no cost, that protects against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a cause of cervical cancer. HPV vaccine is given in a 3-dose series. (This event will provide one dose at not cost to the patient.) Seasonal flu vaccines will also be available. Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu and avoid spreading it to others at high risk of flu-related complications.

Every year, some 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 4,000 women die from this disease in the United States. In 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to add the HPV vaccine to the recommend adolescent and adult immunization schedule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual seasonal flu vaccination to prevent getting or spreading the flu. The strains that are included in the seasonal flu vaccines change every year, so you must be vaccinated against seasonal flu every year.

The fair is free; however anyone who is interested in being vaccinated should make an appointment. Appointments are suggested but not required. Women younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Women older than 18 should bring health insurance information; however, health insurance is not required to attend.

This event is being hosted by The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, a statewide coalition funded by the Rhode Island Department of Health, in conjunction with The Wellness Company. Funding for this conference is from a cooperative agreement award from Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Manufacturers Notify Department of Health of Delay

10-20-2009

Three vaccine manufacturers have notified the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) of changes in previously scheduled seasonal flu vaccine shipments. HEALTH’s adult immunization program was notified that approximately 18% of the total amount of vaccine ordered for the season will not be delivered. This change in delivery was based on two manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Novartis, ending shipments of injectable flu vaccine to distributors. In addition, Sanofi Pasteur, makers of injectable seasonal flu vaccine that was ordered for children and adolescents ages 3 through 18, says remaining shipments to HEALTH’s pediatric program will be delayed. HEALTH anticipates delivery sometime in December. HEALTH purchases the seasonal influenza vaccine from several different manufacturers every year to lessen the impact on the state when there are vaccine shortages or delays.

Public demand for the seasonal flu vaccine has been up this year from years past creating some shortages and cancellations of clinics. By the end of this year’s flu season in Rhode Island, HEALTH will have provided more seasonal flu vaccine than in any previous flu season even with this reduction announced today.

“While this news is not what we would have hoped for,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH, “we are confident that HEALTH will receive all the seasonal vaccine that was ordered for children. We are asking all providers to prioritize current supplies of vaccine for high-risk individuals. In addition, even with the reduction in the amount of vaccine we will receive for adults, we will still have more doses than what was used last year. And we have ordered 10,000 additional doses for adults and 14,000 additional doses for children.”

At this time, HEALTH is recommending that healthcare providers reserve injectable vaccine for the elderly and patients who are pregnant or have underlying medical conditions, as they are at higher risk of complications from seasonal influenza. Providers should contact individuals with underlying medical conditions who still need a seasonal flu vaccine. People who have not gotten a seasonal flu shot can contact their providers or consult the schedule of public clinics at www.projo.com/news/flu/clinics/. People should check this website which will continue to be updated as clinic dates and times change.

Almost all of the influenza illness occurring in Rhode Island right now is due to H1N1, not to seasonal flu. Rhode Islanders are encouraged to receive the H1N1 vaccine once it becomes available to them. Nasal spray H1N1 vaccine is currently available for children ages 2-5 in pediatric provider offices. More shipments will be arriving to the state weekly and will be allocated first to pregnant women (starting next week) and children. School-based vaccination clinics for children in K-12 are expected to begin sometime in early November and run into December.

Department of Health Responds to Case of E Coli 0157

10-21-2009

On October 19, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) was notified several sixth grade students from Lincoln Middle School had diarrheal illness. The students had attended a field trip at a camp in Massachusetts from October 13 through October 16.

As of today (October 21), there have been 15 cases of diarrheal illness. There have been two students who tested positive for E Coli 0157. Two students are hospitalized.

“We want to assure parents and students that we are not seeing this diarrheal illness spread person to person,” said Chief of HEALTH’s Center for Infectious Diseases Robert S. Crausman, MD, MMS. “However, any student or chaperone who was on the field trip and has diarrhea should call their doctor for medical evaluation and treatment. HEALTH is working closely with our colleagues at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in the investigation of this incident.”

Students or chaperones who were on the field trip who do not have diarrhea do not need to take any special precautions. Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the USDA are investigating foods at the camp as the likely source of this illness. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be assisting with this investigation.

“Our first concern is the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Lincoln School Superintendent Georgia Fortunado. “We are working collaboratively with the Department of Health on this response.”

E Coli 0157 causes a bacterial illness similar to salmonella and can be very serious, particularly in very young children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system. The best way to prevent spread of E Coli is to properly clean and cook raw vegetables and thoroughly cook meat (especially ground beef) and to practice good hand hygiene.

Department of Health Posts Draft Schedule of H1N1 Clinics in Schools

10-23-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announces the preliminary schedule for H1N1 vaccination clinics in public, private and parochial schools in Rhode Island. The vaccination clinics are scheduled to begin on Monday, November 2 and will run for six weeks. The selection of school order for clinics was randomly generated by a computer algorithm.

“Our goal remains to vaccinate as many school-aged children as possible in the shortest period of time,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD. MPH. “School-based clinics are the most efficient and effective way to achieve this goal. We encourage all parents to have their children vaccinated in school. If parents decline to have their children vaccinated in school, they should be aware that pediatricians will not have H1N1 vaccine for school-aged children until late December or after the new year.”

Preschool-aged children, including children in pre-K and private kindergartens, will get vaccinated in physician offices, not in school clinics.

This week, letters and consent forms were mailed and distributed to student homes. In some cases, schools opted to send consent forms home with students. The consent form must be completed and returned to the school prior to the clinic. (Consent forms should not be returned to HEALTH.) No vaccination will be given to a student without a consent form. .

“I wish we could do this quicker, but the clinic schedule has been created based on current vaccine availability,” said Gifford. “We have designed this schedule to be flexible and adaptable to any changes in vaccine distribution or snow days.”

This draft schedule can be searched by town, date or school and is subject to change. Parents and students are encouraged to check HEALTH’s website regularly for any updates to the clinic schedule. For school officials to report a school that is missing from the list, call HEALTH’s H1N1 Hotline at 401-222-8022.

Receiving H1N1 vaccine at school-based clinics is voluntary. Secondary school (middle school and high school) students will be vaccinated at clinics taking place during the school day. Clinics for elementary school students will be run in the afternoon and evening.

Ground Beef Recalled Due to E. coli Contamination

10-26-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises Rhode Islanders that the South Shore Meat packing plant in Brockton has initiated a voluntary recall on certain ground beef products based on confirmed laboratory evidence of the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in leftover ground beef samples obtained from Camp Bournedale in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The ground beef was tested by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) after more than 20 students and chaperones from Lincoln Middle School became ill.

USDA is investigating what lot codes are involved at this time and will be updating their website with detailed information on a regular basis. HEALTH continues to work with MDPH and federal partners to determine if any other products are involved with this recall and where the product(s) were distributed.

HEALTH reminds people to eat only ground beef that has been cooked so that the internal temperature of the meat is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Properly cooking the meat kills any bacteria that may be present.

E. coli O157:H7 is a type of bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

Anyone with these symptoms, especially anyone who was on the field trip with Lincoln Middle School, should call their doctor for evaluation and treatment.

Rhode Island Uses E-Prescribing to Assist in Tracking H1N1

10-27-2009

At a press conference featuring healthcare leaders from throughout the state, Governor Donald L. Carcieri announced that Rhode Island was launching a new system for tracking swine flu. Unprecedented in its approach, the system makes use of prescribing data provided by pharmacies throughout the state via a secure electronic link. It is enabled by the state’s success with e-prescribing and the digital healthcare infrastructure available through its partnership with Surescripts, The Nation’s E-Prescription Network.

“Since 2003 Rhode Island has consistently led the way on e-prescribing, and we have been continually recognized as one of the top 10 states in the nation for our success in implementing this initiative,” said Governor Carcieri. “I am proud of all that we have been able to accomplish through a very effective public-private partnership.”

“E-prescribing has been a priority of my administration because of its potential to improve patient safety, increase quality of care, and reduce healthcare costs. It has tremendous value for monitoring and protecting public health, and for increasing efficiencies in our health care system,” Governor Carcieri continued. “The growth of e-prescribing has been an important component of our overall effort to promote the electronic exchange of health information.”

The First Statewide System for Tracking Disease Using Prescription Data

In a healthcare first for Rhode Island and the nation, Surescripts and the state's pharmacies are now providing epidemiologists at the Rhode Island Department of Health with weekly updates of prescription data from pharmacies throughout the state. Participating pharmacies include CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid, Stop & Shop, and Walgreens. The epidemiologists can use the data – which has been de-identified to exclude personal information – to see where there may be spikes in prescriptions of TAMIFLU or other antiviral medications.

“Rhode Island is the first state in the nation to work with Surescripts to use prescription data in the aggregate for disease surveillance, specifically monitoring and tracking the use of antiviral data during this H1N1 pandemic,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD MPH. “This provides another important tool for the state’s public health officials to look at trends related to the course, severity and treatment of the H1N1 pandemic.”

The new capability allows state health officials to do three things:

  • Use the data as a valuable proxy for detecting a potential outbreak of swine flu, including its location and affected age group.
  • Offer a more far-reaching and granular view of potential flu activity when compared to the state's "Sentinel" system -- 25 physician practices around the state which report flu outbreaks to the state DOH.
  • Help detect discrepancies between disease outbreaks reported by the Sentinel system and outbreaks identified based on flu prescriptions. These discrepancies may suggest a number of possibilities: prescribing in the absence of flu; that supplies of an important drug are running low; additional outbreak areas that were not detected by the Sentinel system; the need for additional education to assure the appropriate use of antiviral medications.

Rhode Island’s electronic tracking of antiviral data represents the second prominent use of prescription data for reasons of public health. In 2005, an effort formed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina allowed physicians and pharmacists throughout the country who were caring for displaced residents of New Orleans and surrounding regions to go to KatrinaHealth.org to access the prescription history of an evacuee for whom they were providing care, but had no medical records. Katrina Health and its successor effort – ICERx.org – were forerunners to the Rhode Island system launched today.

First State to Reach 100 Percent of Pharmacies E-Prescribing

Rhode Island’s new system for tracking swine flu is built upon its success in driving the adoption and use of e-prescribing. In yet another first for the state and the nation, Rhode Island today announced that it has now connected 100 percent of its retail pharmacies for e-prescribing. By connecting all of the state’s pharmacies to the Surescripts network, Rhode Island is not only further supporting the growth of e-prescribing and improvements in the cost, quality and safety of prescriptions processed in the state, it is creating new opportunities for meaningful use of the state’s rapidly expanding digital healthcare infrastructure.

"This is a very significant milestone in our efforts to leverage health information technology to improve the quality, safety and value of health care in Rhode Island,” said Laura Adams, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI). “When a misplaced decimal point can cost a life, the value of eliminating hand-transcribed prescriptions cannot be overstated.”

Pharmacists are realizing significant benefits from e-prescribing. Dave Feeney, R.Ph., owner of Oxnard Pharmacy in Warwick turned to e-prescribing as a way to create more efficiencies and economies for his pharmacy.

“E-prescribing allows you more time with patients, improves prescriber relationships and improves patient relationships,” said Feeney. “For example, we have a lot of diabetes patients that we are now able to spend more pharmacist-patient time with to counsel them on diabetes education. Also, patients no longer have to wait for their prescriptions when they arrive at the pharmacy and they have to make fewer return trips to the pharmacy for refill requests.”

“All CVS/pharmacy stores have been enabled to receive electronic prescriptions since 2004 and we are delighted that our home state is the first in the nation to achieve this 100% milestone,” said Papatya Tankut, R.Ph, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Services at CVS/pharmacy. “E-prescribing is a more efficient way for physicians to provide prescription information to pharmacies. It provides physicians with more information about their patients’ prescription profile at point-of-care, eliminates legibility issues which enhances safety at the pharmacy, and provides greater convenience for patients. Tracking prescription patterns to help identify H1N1 flu outbreaks is just one more reason CVS will continue to support efforts to increase the adoption of e-prescribing technology in our health care system.”

“Stop & Shop applauds the achievements in Rhode Island and strongly supports e-prescribing technology,” said Jim Wonderly, Vice President of Pharmacy. “We’re focused on doing all we can to monitor and control the H1N1 flu outbreak including distributing free Tamiflu to qualified customers as part of a Rhode Island state program. We are on board to do all we can to improve efficiencies for our customers, physicians and pharmacists.”

Physicians also benefit from e-prescribing, according to David Gorelick, an internist with Aquidneck Medical Associates in Newport.

"I see approximately 500 patients per month. I prescribe and manage thousands of medications for my patients," said David Gorelick, an internist with Aquidneck Medical Associates in Newport. "Refilling medications with paper records could take up to 10 minutes by the time the chart was located and brought to my desk for review. With e-prescribing, refills can be done in seconds. This is a huge time savings for my practice that allows us to focus more of our attention on direct patient care. E-prescribing also greatly improves patient safety as I now have a computer system to check prescriptions against the patient's allergies and potential interactions between all of their current medications and over-the-counter products."

Rhode Island Establishes Model for Digital Healthcare

The engine behind all of this success in converting from paper to digital healthcare in Rhode Island has been a collaborative effort of involving healthcare leaders from across the state. It began with The Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI), founded by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in 2001. A few years later, the RIQI Statewide e-Prescribing Committee was created. Chaired by Dr. Gifford, the e-Prescribing Committee includes lead officials from the state department of health, the state's major health system, the state's pharmacies and other key players.

“Rhode Island’s unique collaborative model is leveraging the power of the Surescripts network to produce meaningful improvements across the state’s healthcare system,” said Harry Totonis, president and CEO of Surescripts. “Instead of theorizing about how to drive health IT adoption, the Rhode Island e-Prescribing Committee pulls out spread sheets, analyzes real data, sets goals, identifies barriers to health IT adoption and use and acts swiftly to remove them. You need only attend one of their conference calls to understand why Rhode Island is in the leadership position it’s in.”

Through the end of September 2009, Rhode Island had achieved the following level of e-prescribing adoption and use:

  • Retail Pharmacies Connected For E-Prescription Routing = 100%
  • Prescribers Using E-Prescriptions = 63%
  • Prescribers using an Electronic Health Record for E-Prescribing = 56%
  • Prescriptions Routed Electronically = 31%

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is part of a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators working to change the federal rule that currently prevents doctors from e-prescribing controlled substances. Current federal rules require that doctors write paper prescriptions for controlled pharmaceuticals, such as pain medications, antidepressants and some drugs used to treat asthma in children. A change in this rule would provide greater incentive for providers to participate in e-prescribing by eliminating the need for maintaining a separate paper-based prescribing system for controlled substances.

“Today’s announcement is another impressive milestone in a long line of health care innovations in Rhode Island,” said Whitehouse. “Electronic prescribing is a necessity for improved quality and safety in health care delivery, and I’m thankful for all the hard work put in by the Rhode Island Quality Institute and participating pharmacies to adopt this technology. The next step in this effort is for the DEA to issue final regulations allowing providers to prescribe controlled drugs electronically, and I will continue working in the Senate to make that goal a reality.”

Department of Health Confirms Start of H1N1 Clinics in Schools

10-30-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) will begin H1N1 clinics in schools on Monday. Based on current vaccine availability, HEALTH has confirmed the clinics in schools scheduled for the week of November 2. Some schools have adjusted the time or location of their clinics to accommodate the practical and logistical needs of the clinic. Parents are urged to confirm the clinic time and location on the final schedule.

“Getting vaccinated is the best protection against the H1N1 virus,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “We encourage all parents to have their child vaccinated. In order to receive a vaccination at a school-based clinic, parents must sign and return a consent form to the child’s school. HEALTH cannot vaccinate a child without a consent form. All parents should check the finalized schedule to confirm the time and location for your child’s school clinic.”

Receiving H1N1 vaccine at school-based clinics is voluntary. Secondary school (middle school and high school) students will be vaccinated at clinics taking place during the school day. Clinics for elementary school students will be run in the afternoon and evening. The selection of school order for clinics was randomly generated by a computer algorithm.

“School-based clinics are the most efficient and effective way to assure that all Rhode Island school-aged children are offered the H1N1 vaccine in the shortest amount of time,” said Gifford. “If parents decline to have their children vaccinated in school, they should be aware that pediatricians will not have H1N1 vaccine for school-aged children until late December or after the new year.”

The clinic schedule has been created based on current vaccine availability and is designed to be flexible and adaptable to any changes in vaccine distribution or snow days. HEALTH has asked schools to notify their parents if clinic dates change. Children who have allergies not related to vaccine will be able to get vaccinated in the school-based clinic. Children who have severe allergies to eggs, have had a serious reaction to a previous vaccination or have had Guillan-Barre Syndrome will need to be evaluated and vaccinated by their doctor.

Department of Health Issues Compliance Order to Rhode Island Hospital

11-02-2009

On October 22, Rhode Island Hospital (RIH) notified Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) of a wrong-site procedure in the operating room. A patient was scheduled for elective surgery on two different fingers of the right hand. Both procedures were performed on the same finger.

HEALTH discovered several problems in the hospital’s surgical program including failure of the surgeon to mark the fingers. In addition, after notifying the family of the error and going back to do surgery on the correct finger, they failed to conduct a time out. They also failed to implement the uniform state-wide policy adopted by all other hospitals. A detailed description of the findings from the inspection can be found in the deficiency report (see http://www.health.ri.gov/discipline/hospitals/RhodeIsland200911.pdf).

In response to the deficiencies, RIH received an immediate compliance order on October 26 requiring every surgery at RIH to be observed by a licensed clinical professional (not part of the surgery team) who is trained to observe surgical site markings and time out procedures. Today’s amended immediate compliance order outlines additional conditions RIH must meet and fines the hospital $150,000.

“Rhode Island Hospital’s decision to not follow recently established state wide protocols designed to prevent medical errors is of grave concern,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “What is even more disturbing is that after the surgical team realized they had made a mistake and received permission from the family to perform the originally scheduled procedure, they did not do a time out. This pattern of surgical errors is completely unacceptable and must be corrected to protect the safety of all patients at the hospital.”

The hospital received a compliance order that requires them to:

· Continue clinical observation of surgical-site marking and time out procedures for at least one year.

· Immediately adopt and implement into practice the Rhode Island Uniform Surgical Safety Checklist and Standard Definition.

· Shut down elective surgery for one day and conduct a mandatory training and review of the uniform surgical procedures with all surgical staff.

· Install video and audio monitoring equipment in each operating room.

Other conditions are described in the full compliance order. (see http://www.health.ri.gov/discipline/hospitals/RhodeIsland200911.pdf)

HEALTH Department Issues Statement Regarding Tamiflu and Theraflu

11-04-2009

HEALTH alerts consumers that there is a difference between Tamiflu, a prescription medicine to lessen the severity and duration of flu, and Theraflu, an over-the-counter medication which may reduce fever or ease body aches and stuffiness. Theraflu does nothing to lessen the severity or shorten the duration of flu related illness. In addition, some preparations of Theraflu have high doses of acetaminophen and are unsafe for children.

Tamiflu can only be prescribed by a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner and is most effective if given within the first 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Tamiflu is most often prescribed for those who have underlying medical conditions or severe illness which put them at a higher risk for complications from the flu.

We understand that parents are trying to care for their sick children as best they can, and we would like to clarify the differences between these two drugs so that parents can more safely care for their children at home.

Tamiflu

· Prescription medication

· Lessens severity and duration of flu

· Most effective when given within 24-48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms

Theraflu:

· Over-the-counter medication

· May reduce fever or ease body aches and nasal congestion

· Does NOT lessen severity and duration of flu

PLEASE consult your pediatrician before giving your child Theraflu as many preparations of Theraflu have high doses of acetaminophen and are not safe for children.

H1N1 Vaccination Clinic for Rhode Island Students in Out-of-State Schools

11-18-2009

On Saturday December 12, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) will run an H1N1 vaccination clinic for Rhode Islanders in grades kindergarten through grade 12 who attend out-of-state schools. Parents and guardians must pre-register their children for this clinic. An online enrollment system is now available on HEALTH’s website (www.health.ri.gov). Clinic enrollment will close at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 2.

“We encourage all Rhode Island parents and caregivers with children in out-of-state schools to enroll their children in this clinic through our website,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD MPH. “Every school-aged Rhode Island child will have the opportunity to be vaccinated against H1N1 influenza this season because immunization is the most effective way to fight the flu virus. But children who are not pre-registered for this clinic will not be vaccinated.”

The daylong clinic will run at a central, easily accessible location in Rhode Island. This location and the clinic’s times of operation will be announced on HEALTH’s website and through the media during the first week of December.

Eligible children must bring signed and dated consent forms to the clinic to be vaccinated. These forms, as well as H1N1 Vaccine Information Statements, can be downloaded from HEALTH’s website.

Children who missed clinics at their Rhode Island schools, non Rhode Island residents, preschool students and college students are not eligible to be vaccinated at this clinic. Preschool students and children who missed the clinics at their Rhode Island schools can be vaccinated by their pediatricians and family physicians as adequate vaccine becomes available.

“Adaptability has been the key to the success of this vaccination effort thus far,” Dr. Gifford said. “Because we are continuously monitoring our state’s vaccine allocations and the uptake of vaccine among various populations, we were able to adapt our initial plans in order to make sure that Rhode Islanders who attend out-of-state schools are offered vaccine as soon as possible.”

The parents or guardians of children who cannot attend the clinic on December 12 because of religious observances should contact HEALTH’s H1N1 Information Line (401-222-8022) no later than December 2. Responders on this H1N1 Information Line (401-222-8022) are prepared to answer H1N1 influenza and vaccine questions in both English and Spanish.

HEALTH Launches Webpage with Form for Funeral Planning Agent Designation

11-20-2009

At the Governor’s request, the Rhode Island Department of Health launched a webpage today to inform Rhode Islanders about an existing Rhode Island general law (§ 5-33.3 1 et seq.) (http://www.rilin.ri.gov/Statutes/TITLE5/5-33.3/INDEX.HTM) related to funeral planning. This law allows a person to designate any other person to be responsible for his/her funeral arrangements, regardless of their relationship. If no one is designated, Rhode Island law only allows a spouse or next of kin to make funeral arrangements.

Once designated, a Funeral Planning Agent has the authority and responsibility to make all arrangements for the person’s funeral. This includes funeral preparation and planning; decisions about funeral goods and services; decisions about the manner in which funeral services are to be conducted; and decisions about burial, and/or cremation, upon the person’s death.

A Funeral Planning Agent must be 18 years of age or older and willing and able to take on the responsibilities required. A person cannot act as a Funeral Planning Agent for more than one non-relative at a time.

To designate a Funeral Planning Agent, a person must complete the Funeral Planning Agent Designation Form.

HEALTH and Walgreen’s Pharmacy to hold First-Ever Medicine Take-Back Event

11-20-2009

HEALTH and Walgreen’s Pharmacy will hold Rhode Island’s first-ever medicine take-back event on Saturday, December 5, 2009, at the Senior Center located at 1291 Hartford Avenue in Johnston, Rhode Island from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Rhode Islanders are invited to bring their unused or expired medicines for proper disposal.

Many people discard unused or expired medicines into their drains or flush them down the toilet. Medications discarded in this way may reach our groundwater system causing potential contamination to our drinking water supply.

“Discarding medications in a responsible manner to prevent pollution and possible contamination to our drinking water is advisable. This event will help people understand how to practice proper medicine disposal”, said David R. Gifford, MD, MPH, Director, Rhode Island Department of Health.

Studies have shown the growing negative impact of antibiotics, anti-epileptics, endocrine disruptors and anti-inflammatory drugs in groundwater and its impact on human health and the environment. This event will help to educate people about ways to dispense expired medications so they are properly disposed of while acting as good environmental stewards.

Department of Health Confirms Start of H1N1 Clinics for Colleges and Universities

11-24-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) will begin to provide H1N1 vaccine to colleges and universities for student clinics the week of November 30. Each college and university will work with The Wellness Company to design the clinic(s) for their respective campus. Over the three-week period beginning November 30, all colleges, universities and technical schools in the state will hold clinics for students through age 24 who are enrolled at those institutions. Due to vaccine availability, college clinics will be scheduled in two phases.

The first phase of clinics will target the nine colleges and universities with residence halls and on-campus housing. Students who live in close, congregate settings are considered to be at higher risk for spreading influenza virus. The nine colleges/universities in phase one are Brown University, Bryant University, Johnson and Wales, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University and University of Rhode Island. These clinics will take place on campuses and are scheduled to start the week of November 30 and continue through December 18.

Phase two will focus on schools with non-residential student populations (commuter) and will be held the week of December 14. These clinics will be for students, through age 24, who are currently enrolled at Community College of Rhode Island (all campuses), Lincoln Technical Institute, New England Institute of Technology and the Providence campus of URI.

“Getting vaccinated is the best and easiest way to protect yourself and others from the flu,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “While we may have seen the peak of H1N1 activity this fall, we know that H1N1 will continue to spread throughout flu season, and we want students to be protected before they travel home for semester break.”

HEALTH and The Wellness Company will work with colleges and universities to coordinate clinics. Students must complete a consent form in order to be vaccinated and should return the consent form before the clinic. (To download a consent form, visit http://www.health.ri.gov.) Each school will notify students regarding dates and times of clinics and where to return consent forms. Students may only receive the H1N1 vaccine at the school in which they are currently enrolled. Adults through age 24 who are not enrolled in college will have an opportunity to be vaccinated at a later date.

Department of Health Announces Location for H1N1 Vaccination Clinic For Rhode Island Students (K-12) in Out-of-State Schools

12-01-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) will hold its H1N1 vaccination clinic for school-aged Rhode Islanders who attend out-of-state schools at the Cannon Building, its headquarters in Providence.

The clinic is for Rhode Island children in kindergarten through grade 12 who attend schools out of state. It will run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on December 12, 2009. Clear signage in and around the Cannon Building will direct parents and guardians to the vaccine administration area. The Cannon Building is located at Three Capitol Hill, just north of the Rhode Island State House (see below for directions). Ample, free onsite parking is available.

Parents and guardians must pre-register their children for this clinic. An online enrollment system is available on HEALTH’s Web site (www.health.ri.gov). Clinic enrollment will close at 4 p.m. on December 2. Walk-ins will be turned away.

“In choosing a central location such as the Cannon Building to host the clinic for Rhode Island students in out-of-state schools we hope to draw as many eligible children as possible,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD MPH. “Vaccination remains the best way to fight H1N1 flu.”

Eligible children must bring signed and dated consent forms to the clinic in order to be vaccinated. These forms, as well as H1N1 Vaccine Information Statements, can be downloaded from HEALTH’s Web site.

Children who missed clinics at their Rhode Island schools, non Rhode Island residents, preschool students and college students are NOT eligible to be vaccinated at this clinic. Preschool students and children who missed the clinics at their Rhode Island schools can be vaccinated by their pediatricians and family physicians as adequate vaccine becomes available. For information about clinics for non high school students who are 24 years old and younger, consult HEALTH’s Web site.

The answers to frequently asked questions about the clinic for Rhode Islanders who attend out-of-state schools can be found on HEALTH’s Web site. Parents and guardians with additional questions can contact HEALTH’s H1N1 Information Line (401-222-8022). Responders on this line are prepared to answer questions in both English and Spanish.

HEALTH will use the e-mail addresses that parents and guardians provided during the registration process to make any further updates about the December 12 clinic.

Report Evaluates Performance of Rhode Island Health Insurers

12-02-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner released the 11th annual RI Health Plans’ Performance Report (2008). This report analyzes the two largest health plans, Blue Cross and United, on 31 separate measures. They are also compared to all commercial plans in New England, and to the best 10% of health plans nationally.

According to the report, Blue Cross and United performed similarly to other insurers in New England. Nine of Blue Cross’ 19 quality measures were equal to New England averages, four measures were better, and six measured below the regional averages. Eleven of United’s 19 quality measures were equivalent to New England averages, five measures were better, and three measured below the regional average.

“It is important for Rhode Islanders to know how well their health insurers are performing,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Public reporting of results also holds insurers accountable for how services are delivered and often improves overall quality.”

“With the large majority of commercially insured Rhode Islanders covered by these two health plans, purchasers deserve to know how well they are performing and whether there is good value received from the premiums dollars expended” said Health Insurance Commissioner, Christopher Koller. “Health insurers can improve the value of key medical services by their actions. This report shows there are several areas for improvement from Rhode Island’s Health Plans.“

HEALTH Plans H1N1 Clinic for RI Residents Who Attend Out-of-State Colleges

12-03-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is planning to hold an H1N1 vaccination clinic for Rhode Islanders who attend out-of-state colleges and universities. In order to plan for such a clinic and estimate the number of students who would be eligible, HEALTH is asking interested students to pre-register online for the clinic by 4:00 p.m. on December 11, 2009. While an exact date and location for the clinic have not been confirmed, the date will fall somewhere between December 21, 2009 and January 8, 2010 to coincide with most students’ winter break. Beginning today, students can pre-register on HEALTH’s Web site at www.health.ri.gov. Only students who have pre-registered will be able to attend the clinic. They will be notified by email with clinic details as they become available.

“Estimating the number of students who will need to be vaccinated over the winter break is difficult because many students have already been vaccinated at their colleges and universities,” said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This pre-registration will allow HEALTH to plan for the required amount of vaccine and staff to run a clinic. Our goal is to ensure that all college and university students have had an opportunity to be vaccinated before they travel back to schools and their congregate living situations.”

Only students through age 24 who are Rhode Island residents but attend a college or university in another state will be eligible for vaccination at this clinic. Adults through age 24 who are not enrolled in college will have an opportunity to be vaccinated at a later date.

Deadline for Lifespan, Care New England application extended to March 31, 2010

12-15-2009

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch and Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH, announced today that they have granted Lifespan Corp.’s and Care New England Health Systems’ request for more time to complete their initial application to merge into what would be, if approved, Rhode Island’s largest hospital and health-care system.

Lifespan and CNE requested the extension Dec. 4. Prior to the extension, they had until this past Friday, Dec. 11, to provide information that the Attorney General’s Office and Department of Health had determined to be incomplete on Oct. 28.

AG Lynch and Dr. Gifford have granted the parties’ request for an extension until March 31, 2010, with several conditions.

Lynch and Gifford urged “regular, ongoing communication,” they said, between the applicants and state agencies; gave their own agencies an extra 20 days to determine if Lifespan’s and CNE’s final application, once submitted, is complete; encouraged Lifespan and CNE to submit missing information as soon as it becomes available rather than waiting until the new deadline; and stipulated that the applicants would not use the time extension as a basis to sue either state agency.

“Knowing how rigorous the Hospital Conversions Act is, realizing its effects on both applicants and regulators, we’ve tried to assist Lifespan and Care New England since they first proposed their idea to merge in July of 2007,” Lynch said. “Given the scale of the proposed merger, what it may mean for our economy and what it may mean to access to health care — which affects everybody’s quality of life — Dr. Gifford and I both want it to rise or fall on its merits. We know from our experience with the St. Joseph Health Service-Roger Williams Hospital affiliation that the law works. We hope that this extension of time will allow Lifespan and Care New England to complete their important work so that, ultimately, our offices can fully and properly evaluate the merger and determine if it is in Rhode Island’s best interests.”

“We are willing to work with both health-care systems so that all the necessary information is available when this goes out for public review,” said Dr. Gifford. “Given the amount of paperwork that needs to be submitted, we felt this request is reasonable.”

The Attorney General’s Office and DOH received the initial application on Sept. 28. They reviewed it jointly in October, notifying Lifespan and CNE that it was incomplete on Oct. 28.

First Round of School-Based H1N1 Clinics End, Vaccine Available for New Populations

12-15-2009

Turning a corner today in its H1N1 vaccination campaign, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) concluded its first round of school-based H1N1 vaccination clinics and opened vaccine up to new populations in the state.

First round of school-based clinics a success

In the first round of HEALTH’s school-based vaccination program more than 113,000 children from kindergarten through grade 12 received the H1N1 vaccine. The first round of the program spanned six weeks and 28 school days. Of the students enrolled in schools that hosted clinics during this time period, approximately three-fourths received the vaccine.

“We are thrilled by this unprecedented level of success in vaccinating school-aged children,” said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “The hard work of schools’ faculty members and the dedication of the members of Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps made the success of the first phase of our school-based H1N1 vaccination program possible.”

More than 750 volunteers from the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) logged more than 12,000 hours running 421 clinics for children in public, private, and parochial schools and for children who are home-schooled. MRC volunteers will continue to vaccinate school-agedchildren who are younger than 10 years of age in HEALTH’s second round of school-based vaccination clinics, which will begin in mid January. Children who are younger than 10 years of age need second doses to ensure full immunity. HEALTH will release a schedule for this second round of school-based clinics after the holiday.

H1N1 vaccine availability

With the close of the first round of school-based H1N1 vaccination clinics, the following populations can now receive H1N1 vaccine from their Rhode Island healthcare providers who have enrolled in the H1N1 vaccination program:

  • Children in kindergarten through grade 12 who did not receive their first doses of H1N1 vaccine at their schools.
  • Adults through the age of 24.
  • Adults through the age of 64 with chronic illnesses.

“We hope that as vaccine becomes available to different populations throughout the state, individuals will continue to make the wise decision to vaccinate themselves and their loved ones against H1N1 flu,” Gifford said. “H1N1 flu is a potentially dangerous virus and we fully expect to see another surge of illness in the coming months.”

Adults with chronic illnesses include those with chronic lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, blood disorders, and immunosuppression due to disease or medications. Healthcare providers have been urged to contact their patients with chronic illnesses.

College and university H1N1 flu vaccination clinics

H1N1 vaccination clinics continue to run on the campuses of colleges, universities, and technical schools for enrolled students through the age of 24. HEALTH will run an H1N1 vaccination clinic for Rhode Islanders who are younger than 24 years of age and who attend out-of-state colleges and universities. Although HEALTH has not yet announced the date of these clinics, students can pre-register for this clinic on HEALTH’s website (www.health.ri.gov) through December 21 (this date represents a deadline extension). Pre-registration for this clinic is mandatory.

For more information about H1N1 flu and HEALTH’s vaccination plan, see www.health.ri.gov. With H1N1 flu-related questions, write to H1N1@health.ri.gov or call HEALTH’s H1N1 Information Line (401-222-8022). Responders on this line are prepared to answer questions in both English and Spanish.

Department of Health Announces Dates and Location of H1N1 Clinics for Rhode Islanders who Attend Out-of-State Colleges and Universities

12-18-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) in partnership with the Wellness Company, will hold H1N1 vaccination clinics for Rhode Islanders who attend out-of-state colleges and universities on December 30, 2009 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and January 6, 2010 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. These clinics will be held at the Community College of Rhode Island’s Knight Campus in Warwick. Only students from Rhode Island 24 years old and younger who are enrolled in colleges and universities in other states will be vaccinated at these clinics. Anyone who has already pre-registered will receive an email explaining the need to complete a second registration to choose a preferred date and time for vaccination. Those students who have not yet pre-registered are required to visit HEALTH’s website at www.health.ri.gov to complete the registration process. Registration for both clinics will close on December 26 at 11:59 p.m. Only students who pre-registered will be able to attend these clinics. Walk-ins will be turned away.

“While we may have seen the peak of H1N1 activity this fall, we know that H1N1 will continue to spread throughout flu season,” said Director of Health, David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Getting vaccinated is still the best and easiest way for college students, and others, to protect themselves and others from the flu.”

Students must complete a consent form in order to be vaccinated and should bring the signed, dated consent form and valid college I.D. with them to the clinic. Anyone eligible to receive intranasal vaccine will be required to accept FluMist, as injectable vaccine is in limited supply and reserved for those with chronic health conditions. Any student younger than 18 years of age must have a consent form signed by a parent or guardian.

Department of Health Announces Expansion of H1N1 Vaccine Availability for High-Risk Groups and the General Public

12-21-2009

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is expanding H1N1 vaccination after receiving 100,000 additional doses of vaccine. In the coming weeks, the H1N1 vaccine will be available through a variety of venues to all Rhode Islanders who wish to be vaccinated. The delivery of extra doses of vaccine was prompted by HEALTH’s continued requests and by the success of ongoing efforts to vaccinate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tier I priority (highest-risk) populations in Rhode Island.

“Flu activity in Rhode Island remains high for this time of year, and many Rhode Islanders are at risk for serious illness and complications from H1N1,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Our goal is to vaccinate half a million Rhode Islanders by Valentine’s Day. Vaccination is the best way for people to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu. The more people who get vaccinated against H1N1, the less likely it is that we will see a third wave of illness this spring.”

HEALTH is asking healthcare providers enrolled in the vaccine program to continue prioritizing adults through age 64 with chronic medical conditions, young adults through age 24, school-aged children who missed their first doses of vaccine at their schools, and caregivers of infants younger than 6 months old for office-based vaccination. Healthcare providers have been urged to contact their highest-risk patients.

Retail pharmacies enrolled in the H1N1 vaccine program will receive their first deliveries of H1N1 vaccine by the end of this week. These include Rhode Island CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Stop & Shop pharmacies. Over the next few weeks, the vaccine will also be available in some medical offices, including many urgent care centers. Patients or their insurers may be charged a vaccine administrative fee by these providers.

Starting in January, the vaccine will also be available for free in certain venues. HEALTH’s goal is to provide Rhode Islanders with as much access to the vaccine as possible. HEALTH is working with its municipal partners to organize public vaccination clinics in January for uninsured individuals, remaining high-risk individuals, and others, including the elderly, who want to wait to receive the vaccine free of charge.

Healthcare workers and first responders will have the opportunity to be vaccinated for free through their Healthcare Service Regions (HSRs). School-aged children younger than 10 years of age will receive their second doses of H1N1 vaccine in their schools. The second round of school-based clinics will begin the week of January 11, 2010. HEALTH will announce the final schedule of school clinics during the first week of January.