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Rhode Island’s hospitals risk collapse. Our safety is again in danger – Nick Landekic, opinion

by Nick Landekic, opinion to RINewsToday

Rhode Island’s Hospitals Are Overwhelmed and Our Safety Is – Once Again – In Danger 

Rhode Island’s hospital system is once again strained to the point of breakdown. Recent experiences report 9 to 12 hour waits for care at emergency rooms at Miriam, Rhode Island, and Hasbro Children’s Hospitals – because of the ‘tripledemic’ of steeply rising RSV, flu, and COVID cases. A leading caregivers union calls the situation “dangerous.” Without immediate action by Governor McKee and the state government, we risk our hospital system collapsing. 

Last week we crossed the threshold of a flu epidemic, with hospitalizations the highest in the last 10 years. Overworked physicians and nurses struggle to keep up despite severe understaffing. With a further surge in cases coming this winter, our beleaguered  healthcare workers and system may be pushed over the brink.

Hasbro Children’s Hospital is running at 115% of capacity, inundated by RSV infections. The number of cases has increased 600% since August. Adults are at risk too, with 14,000 dying of RSV each year. The situation is much worse this year – 7,334 cases for the week ending October 15, compared with only 6 for the week a year ago. 

Rhode Island’s track record with COVID is poor. For most of the pandemic we have had among the highest infection rates of any state. At times, we have had the highest infection rate in the entire world – not an encouraging sign of our healthcare strategy. 58% of hospitalizations are still directly – or indirectly – for COVID. CDC Community Transmission levels, the actual risk of infection, is ‘High’ in all of Rhode Island. Now is not the time to leave our health in the hands of corporations. 

Cagey comments from RIDOH suggesting that ‘things are tough elsewhere too’ doesn’t change the facts that Rhode Island’s caregivers and hospitals are overwhelmed and must be helped. It’s up to the state government to step in. Note to Governor McKee and state legislators: ignoring reality doesn’t change reality. 

Governor McKee seems happy to leave our health and lives to ‘the market’ and in the hands of Lifespan, CharterCare, and Care New England. Unfortunately, for-profit companies are focused on making the most money, not providing us with the best care. It will take decisive and fast action by our elected leaders to avoid a worsening healthcare emergency.

There are many steps Governor McKee and the legislature could take, including offering pay, benefits, and administrative support to bring retired nurses and physicians into the workforce until next spring, in collaboration with the Medical Reserve Corps. 

Immediately re-open vaccination clinics in every community, to reduce flu and COVID hospitalizations. 

Establish COVID vaccination, testing, and treatment mobile teams to drive to and reach people over age 60. 

Recommend masking in indoor spaces until the hospitals are below capacity. No one likes wearing a mask, but you would like having COVID, RSV, or the flu much less. Wearing a mask is a very minor inconvenience. Having one of those illnesses is a major one. 

Longer term, we must make Rhode Island more attractive for physicians and nurses to stay and practice here. We should set up a state program along the lines of the National Health Service Corps to pay for medical school, or debt forgiveness, in exchange for caregivers practicing here. We should increase the number of nurses trained each year, and establish new physician training programs.

Our tax monies are better spent supporting overburdened physicians, nurses and hospitals, not padding the pockets of real estate developers, such as with over $90 million in tax subsidies, appropriations, and loans for the ‘Superman’ building. Your life could depend on having a doctor, nurse, or hospital bed available when you need one. 

“You can see the train coming down the tracks. The time to get off the tracks is now, not when you can smell the oil from the train engine,” said Dr. Peter Marks of the Food and Drug Administration. Don’t wait for a further increase in hospitalizations and serious illnesses to get your motivation up. The life you save may be your own.

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Nick Landekic of Bristol is a retired scientist and biotechnology entrepreneur who has spent more than 35 years working in the pharmaceutical industry.

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4 Comments

  1. Nancy Thomas on November 14, 2022 at 8:54 am

    This comment from Patricia A McLaughlin:

    I am a retired RN in the state of Rhode Island and still licensed. No one has contacted me. It is my opinion that they are apparently doing little or nothing to recruit experienced nurses to lift the burden that is now upon the public and the health care system. What are they going to do? Sit on their hands and tell patients and their families they can’t recruit nurses? Governor Dan McKee must act responsibility now. The public is in dire need of action.

  2. Lou Pacheco on November 14, 2022 at 2:03 am

    Never once mentioned is the fact the hospitals are understaffed due to letting staff go over mandatory Covid vaccines that don’t even stop the spread. Give it a break already.

  3. Kit Morrison on November 13, 2022 at 7:46 pm

    I don’t know where you were all along, but the waits were this long before Covid. When I broke my shoulder in 3/2019, I waited for over 5 hours before I told them I would go to my own doctor the next day. As soon as they went to cut off my wrist band, I was finally called only to wait 3 more hours before seeing a medical student.

  4. Susan on November 13, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    There are more overworked understaffed professionals in hospitals. It is not just physicians and nurses

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