Letters to the Editor, November 2, 2013

Fri, 11/01/2013 - 2:55pm

To the Editor:

I was deeply bothered by the letter in last week’s paper concerning UnitedHealth Care and the Medical Center [Letters section, Oct. 25]. My wife and I are seniors and members of Medicare and their Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) UnitedHealth Care. We are directly affected by this news.

What I did was refer to the manual “Medicine and You” that all Medicare participants recently received in the mail. There I learned about the many HMOs participating in Rhode Island next year. One was Blue Cross Blue Shield. I called them and they are sending me enrollment information. To enroll can also be done over the phone or on their website.

The Blue Cross and UnitedHealth Care plans are quite similar. After reading the material I expect we will enroll in Blue Cross. This solution should help other UnitedHealth Care members in the same boat. I know that the Medical Center accepts Blue Cross.

What bothers me about last week’s letter is that it told us the bad news about UnitedHealth leaving but never mentioned any alternatives. Indeed, the letter says “MedicareAdvantage patients will have no insurance coverage while on the island. They will be forced to pay out of pocket rates or pay 100 percent of the cost” and “will need to travel to the mainland by ferry or plane” if we are “in need of care.”

This is not correct if you simply change to another insurer. You can call BlueCross, as I did, at 1 (800) 505-2583.

Peter Greenman

Center Road, Block Island


To the Editor:

The Harbor Church Roll Call Turkey Dinner was a great success. We served almost 600 people either in our dining rooms or through the take-out service, and this was made possible because well-organized groups of volunteers selflessly dedicated their time and talents. Thank you to everyone who came to support this event and enjoy an evening of camaraderie and good food.

Thanks to everyone who helped. It is only because so many generous people participated that the dinner ran so smoothly. Starting with our kitchen crew, thank you to the 25 volunteers who cooked the delicious turkeys, all the cooks, the turkey carvers, the food servers, our gravy lady, the coleslaw maker, the clean-up crew, and the many, many others who helped with the dinner.

Thank you to the Atlantic Inn for generously allowing us to use its kitchen for the mashed potatoes and the Red Bird for storing our vegetables in its cooler. We also want to thank the Block Island Depot for helping us with the turkey order, potatoes and other food items, and everyone who showed up on Monday to help peel the 200 pounds of potatoes and cut up the vegetables.

The dining room ran smoothly, thanks to our hostesses and dining room supervisors, who kept the tables full and directed our youthful, energetic wait staff from the Block Island school: Richie Conant, Kiley Hall, Kathleen Hemingway, Ryan McGarry, Oliver Mott, Jameson Padien and Millie Starr. You were all terrific! Thank you for giving up your evening to help.

And who can forget our charming junior pie server, Whitney Rose McGinnes, or all those wonderful, tempting pies she brought to your table? Thank you to everyone who baked and to our pie room servers.

The take-out window was busy all night, but thanks to our hard-working crew, the line was kept moving smoothly. Thanks, also, to the drivers who delivered meals to shut-ins. Finally, thank you to Finn’s for donating the carry-out containers.

There were many other volunteers who helped with clean up and various other jobs that added to the evening’s success, again too numerous to list, but we want all of you to know your contributions are greatly appreciated. Together, we showed the generous spirit of the Block Island Community.

Rheba McKernan

For the Roll Call Dinner Committee

(Connie LaRue, Rheba McKernan, Judy Mitchell, Linda Spak and Barbara Temple)


To the Editor:

In last week’s Block Island Times there were two letters dealing with Lyme disease [Letters section, Oct. 25] . On behalf of the Block Island Medical Center and its professional staff, I would like to clarify some facts about our staff and Lyme disease statistics nationally and on Block Island.

Contrary to what was written to the editor, Lyme disease is a serious public health problem for both islanders and visitors.

On Aug. 19, 2013 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a press release dealing with estimates of the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease.

In part, the release stated “Preliminary estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease each year is around 300,000... The new estimate suggests that the total number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease is roughly 10 times higher than the yearly reported number.”

CDC goes on to highlight “This preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.” Dr. Lyle Petersen, M.D., M.P.H., Director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, states “We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities to combat this public health problem.” This is the approach we are taking on Block Island. The Health Center, The Town Council, The Deer Task Force and many members of our medical community are working to fight Lyme disease.

Last month, Dr. Jan Miller, Medical Director at the medical center, and I wrote to Dr. Michael Fine, Director Of the R.I. Department of Health, advising him of an increase in reported cases of Lyme from 48 in 2012 to 67 as of September 2013. If the CDC estimate is on target, the actual number of cases could be 10 fold higher (670 cases). We wrote that Block Island has a serious public health problem and needs assistance from the state. We are meeting with Dr. Fine early next month.

The Staff, Board of Directors of Block Island Health Center and Provider Advisory Committee all have been involved in this serious public health problem. The staff includes a doctor, a nurse practitioner, and a registered nurse. The Board includes Dr. Al Casazza, Sue Hagedorn, NP, PhD; Cindy Baute, RN, MS; Pam Hinthom, RN, PhD; Mary Donnelly, RN, and Cookie Lenoci, PA.

The Provider Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Dr. Miller and Dr. Casazza, wrote a letter to our Board expressing concern about the increase in Lyme disease. That committee includes several Doctors, a Physician’s assistant, a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse. To suggest no medical professionals have been involved is wrong. Any statements made by our Executive Director, Barbara Baldwin, are completely supported by the medical staff and other health care professionals either on our board or advisory committee.

Block Islanders should not be duped into thinking that Lyme disease is not a serious public health problem. The CDC and our Medical Community think otherwise.

Diagnosis, prevention and education about Lyme disease must involve our entire community.

Bob Fallon, Esq.


Block Island Health Services


To The Editor:

While there were other important actions taken during the 2013 session of the General Assembly, economic development was and remains the central focus of the legislature. Making our state more competitive, making it easier to do business here, creating jobs for Rhode Islanders and ensuring that our educational system prepares the next generation for those jobs are goals that we are moving toward and that will continue to dominate the agenda when the General Assembly returns in January, 2014.

During the challenging and turbulent economic times our state has faced the past few years, my top priority as a legislator has been finding ways to promote a healthy and vibrant economy. Through several initiatives of my own and working closing with Senate leaders and leaders in the business community, we developed a package of more than two dozen economic development bills which were enacted during the 2013 session. Called “Moving the Needle,” the multi-faceted legislation was geared toward reforming the state’s disjointed approach to economic development, boosting the skills of the workforce, improving educational attainment, and addressing infrastructure, taxation, regulatory burdens and business cost drivers such as health care and energy.

Of most essential importance, I believe, was a piece of legislation that I crafted and championed and which was a centerpiece of the “Moving the Needle” package — legislation that calls for a long-overdue overhaul of the Economic Development Corporation, the state’s main economic agency. The legislation, now law, makes statutory changes to increase transparency and promote a more customer-centric agency. Enactment of this legislation will create the kind of agency that is essential for a better future — one that focuses on improving our state’s business climate and that meets our state’s goal of increased planning and performance in job creation, innovation, entrepreneurship and global business.

The legislation sets out several specific guidelines for the agency, among them that board members must adopt a mission statement that states purposes and goals of the corporation, identifies stakeholders and their reasonable expectations, and lists measurements for performance and achievement of goals. In addition, the board will be required to establish quantifiable performance measurements for all programs of the corporation and its subsidiaries. The new entity will also be required to adopt regulations establishing financing guidelines, including risk assessment, for all loans and guarantees awarded by the corporation and document how each loan or guarantee has met the guidelines. It will also be required to submit a yearly report to Senate and House Finance Committees on each loan and loan guarantee, and the corporation will be subject to a performance audit every three years conducted by the Bureau of Audits.

Other parts of the “Moving the Needle” package will work hand-in-hand with the EDC overhaul to vastly improve Rhode Island’s chances of attracting new businesses to the state, of helping businesses here grow and prosper. One such measure creates the Executive Office of Commerce, to be headed by a new secretary of commerce and to ensure that commerce is consistently promoted throughout the state. Another measure creates the Council of Economic Advisors, comprised of members from the public and private sectors who will collect and publish economic data and advise the governor, General Assembly and Secretary of Commerce on economic matters. Finally, another measure focuses on long-term economic vision and planning, requiring each newly-elected or re-elected governor to convene a stakeholder group to develop, then revisit and revise, a long-term economic plan for the state.

Rarely is a downturn in the economy followed by a meteoric upsurge. Time is an essential element of long-term, sustained growth, especially in the case of Rhode Island and its woeful national business competitiveness rankings. But with the enactment of the various “Moving the Needle” bills during the last session, Rhode Island has positioned itself to see real growth in the years ahead. The structure we have put into place will attract new business to Rhode Island; it will make it easier, and less of a bureaucratic headache, to do business in Rhode Island; it will help train a workforce for the jobs of the future.

James C. Sheehan

Senator – District 36

Narragansett, North Kingstown


To the Editor:

Harbor Church would like to thank the community for its enthusiastic support of this year’s Roll Call Dinner on Oct. 22. We had what some have said was record attendance — and we apologize if the lines got too long at times.

In particular we would like to thank Linda Spak and Connie LaRue, who do not attend our church, for taking the lead in planning the dinner along with members Rheba McKernan, Judy Mitchell, and Barbara Temple. There were countless volunteers from inside and outside the church, some for the umpteenth time at their regular posts, and the students from Block Island School worked as charming and efficient servers. Thanks also to businesses including the Atlantic, the Depot, and the Red Bird who allow us to use their facilities.

This is truly an annual community event we are delighted to host, and we are thankful for each contribution that was made to the church’s ministry.

The Harbor Church Community