Letters to the Editor, October 24, 2013

Mon, 10/28/2013 - 2:00pm

The following letter was sent to The Providence Journal and copied to The Block Island Times.

To the Editor:

I was surprised to see an open letter to Rhode Island United Healthcare Medicare Advantage members published Oct. 19. The letter stated that UnitedHealthcare offers high quality and expansive networks of physicians, specialists and other providers to choose from. It states it will continue to offer broad choice in access to care. It said it is working to collaborate with a more focused network of physicians to help provide higher quality and more affordable coverage.

That has not been the experience of the Block Island Medical Center. All of our clinicians received a letter notifying them that their participation in the Medicare Advantage network will be terminated effective next Feb. 1, 2014. UnitedHealthcare explains that this termination is without cause.

It is true that we are a relatively small practice, but we are the only source of health care on Block Island. We are a small island 10 miles from mainland Rhode Island with no bridges. Patients in need of care who have Medicare Advantage would need to travel to the mainland by ferry or plane, no easy task in bad weather.

Medicare Advantage patients will have no insurance coverage while on the island. They will be forced to pay out-of-network rates or pay 100 percent of the cost.

It is difficult for us to understand how this will provide a higher quality of care or more affordable care for residents and visitors on Block Island. What UnitedHealthcare has done is to drop the only source of medical care on our island.

Barbara F. Baldwin

Block Island

The writer is the Executive Director of Block Island Health Services.

To the Editor:

An attempt to find a little humorous reality in the situation.

Total cost for government shutdown: $24,000,000,000.00

Total U.S. population: 320,562,920.00

Less 2 Koch Brothers: 320,562,918.00

Less .01 percent: 3,205,627.00

The rest of us: 317,357,291.00

Cost to each of us of the $24 billion shutdown:

$24,000,000,000 ÷ 317,357,291 = $74.62454268618016.00

Adding .001 % interest, TeaHead cost to me, you and to each of our kids: $75.62785773462668.00

Thank you, Sen. (Ted) Cruz and House Speaker (John) Boehner.

Arlen Dean Snyder

Sands Pond Road

P.S.: This household could use our $151.25571546925336.00


To the Editor:

The last blood drive of the year will be on Friday, Nov. 1, from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the Harbor Church. This drive is dedicated to Tim Connor, a fifth grader at Block Island School, who was diagnosed with leukemia in July.

Tim was hospitalized at Hasbro Children’s Hospital for three weeks. He spends time now between home and the hospital and will receive treatment for the next two years. Our island family needs to support Tim in every way by donating blood. He has received many transfusions already.

You may donate if you are 18 years or older. There is no upper age cutoff. If you are 16 to 18 years old, you may donate with parent’s permission. Please bring your driver’s license or blood donor card. Of course, first-time donors are always welcome. Production at our last drive was 35 units of blood. Let’s do everything we can to exceed that.

Many of us in the Block Island family cannot donate for many reasons. If you cannot, consider doing what a Block Islander did at the last drive. He made a cash contribution to the Rhode Island Blood Center.

You can send a donation to them in Tim’s name at 405 Promenade St., Providence, R.I. 02908 or Hasbro Children’s Hospital,Tomorrow Clinic, 593 Eddy St., Providence, R.I.

Thank you for your help.

Peter Greenman, Coordinator

Rhode Island Blood Center



To the Editor:

According to the front page of The Block Island Times, Lyme numbers a “health emergency” (Oct. 18). First of all, are we talking about numbers or truly individuals with Lyme disease? Block Island Health Services (BIHS) and Deer Task Force (DTF) members seem to think that the numbers game again is under-reporting Lyme, yet many of us still think the testing, results, physical findings for clinical diagnosis and numbers are haphazard and could very well be over-reported.

Either way, there are so many medical opinions coming out of these groups, with nary a medical professional amongst the Deer Task Force members (and I don’t see an MD or RN after the Executive Director of the BIHS, Barbara Baldwin’s, name).

Please don’t misread me here. I do believe both of these groups are well-intended and concerned about a health problem here, but health emergency? Come on! My sympathies go out to those suffering with symptoms or true Lyme disease. We all know most members of the deer-hating Deer Task Force are members of the Block Island Garden Club — not sure about Paul Dean, could be.

As I walk down Water Street all summer, somehow I haven’t stumbled over a prone individual lying in the road with a hand out asking me, “Please help me. I have Lyme disease.” But I have stumbled over one saying, “Hey buddy, can you get me another drink.” Now we are talking about a “health emergency,” since this individual can actually crawl to a downtown bar and get another drink, somehow find his car, and drive home on the wrong side of the road.

Let us now return to the Medical Center and ask for numbers again. How many alcohol or drug-related cases, injuries or deaths — yes, deaths — associated with such have you had here in a year? Just a year ago, you had hundreds [of cases] just in July. Check out the police blotter and see how many of these are actually arrested at the medical center. These make Lyme disease a non-entity. The getting-drunk-or-drugged-here is the real health emergency. It then becomes a law enforcement problem — which I do say our police department handles very well under the circumstances.

BIHS and the DTF are trying to fuel our emotions unnecessarily and in the process casting a pall over this beautiful place. Sure, my shasta and Montauk daisies had all the buds eaten this year by deer and failed to bloom, but I still don’t mind seeing them (deer) out in the fields. The increased hunting will again reduce the herd appreciably — hopefully not the human population — and we can all go on with the pristine life on Block Island.

We have a problem here with Lyme disease, and a long list of other medical problems, but should Lyme be used to tag Block Island with a health emergency? I think not.

Meanwhile, watch where you step!

John Willis

Beacon Hollow Farm


To the Editor:

The Deer Task Force (DTF) article (published Oct. 18 in The Block Island Times) begins with “Part of our charge is the education of the public… ” Yet The DTF seems to have utilized only a small portion of the research concerning deer and Lyme disease. I would like to share some of the knowledge that I have learned.

This is from an article written by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

“The black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis, is the most common carrier of Lyme disease in the mid-western and eastern states… The black-legged tick has a rather complex life cycle involving development from an egg to a larva, larva to a nymph, and finally from a nymph to an adult. This process usually takes two years…

“In the spring, the eggs hatch into larvae. During the summer, the larvae feed on mice, squirrel, raccoon, rabbit and other animals. In the fall, the larvae mature into nymphs, which then hibernate over winter. In the spring and summer these nymphs become active again, preferring to feed on mice. It is during the time the tick is in the nymphal stage that it is most likely to infect humans. At the end of its life cycle the female tick lays eggs and dies.

“Deer supply the tick that transmits the bacterium with a place to mate and provides a blood meal for the female tick prior to production of eggs. Research has shown that white-tailed deer are important to the reproductive success of the black-legged tick. In the absence of deer, this tick will opportunistically feed on other medium sized mammals and humans. As a management tool for Lyme Disease, there is still debate in the scientific community as to whether reducing the number of deer present in an area will effectively or dramatically reduce Lyme Disease “risk.”

In addition, this information is from an article from The National Academy of Sciences of the United States;

“The emergence of Lyme disease has been attributed to a century-long recovery of deer, an important reproductive host for adult ticks. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that Lyme disease risk may now be more dynamically linked to fluctuations in the abundance of small-mammal hosts that are thought to infect the majority of ticks. The continuing and rapid increase in Lyme disease over the past two decades, long after the recolonization of deer, suggests that other factors, including changes in the ecology of small-mammal hosts may be responsible for the continuing emergence of Lyme disease.

“Increases in Lyme disease in the northeastern and midwestern United States over the past three decades are frequently uncorrelated with deer abundance and instead coincide with a range-wide decline of a key small-mammal predator…”

On Block Island, we clearcut the trees in the Enchanted Forest, the same trees that owls nested in. Our owl population declines, our rat and mouse population increases and therefore our hosts for the stage of Lyme disease that is dangerous to people increases. Our dump is open for limited hours, making it more difficult for people to get rid of garbage, thus an increase in the rat population. More rats, more Lyme.

Another fact I would like to share concerns Europe in the dark ages and the bubonic plague. At that time, cats were associated with witchcraft and were slaughtered, thus decreasing the predatory base and increasing the rat population. These rats then carried bubonic plague, which killed over one-third of the population of Europe at the time.

We no longer live in the dark ages, but in an enlightened era, where the wholesale slaughter of a species for unfounded reasons ,is incomprehensible and irresponsible.

So I ask that we, as a community, educate ourselves. A vast amount of information is easily accessible for anyone with a computer. And our library has public-use computers available.

It seems to me that it is extremely detrimental to a tourist-based economy to randomly put out partial information to further a cause.  Scaring away the very people that we, as a community, rely upon to sustain us is wrong. I ask that both the Deer Task Force and the Medical Center utilize the resources available to educate, not only themselves, but also others, so we can come to a positive solution to a situation that obviously we all agree affects us all.

I leave you with one last fact from the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center:

“Just as the diagnosis of Lyme or another tick-borne disease may have been missed by doctors not familiar with its many manifestations, so too has the diagnosis of other illnesses been missed by doctors who have incorrectly attributed a variety of symptoms to Lyme or another tick-borne disease.

“Misdiagnosis is not surprising when one is dealing with a disease for which diagnostic tests are not definitive.”

And I finish with a question; If most of the people that visit here are from states that also have Lyme disease, is the Medical Center counting the people who are from these places? Because, realistically, the numbers should only be about people who live year-round on Block Island who have been definitively diagnosed with a tick borne illness. These are the numbers that we, as an educated community, need to address.

Heather Sniffen

Ambrose Lane