Servicing an aging population

Fri, 03/25/2022 - 2:15am

To the Town Council and B.I. Times:
Remember what the island was like in 1984? Things didn’t get busy until the Fourth of July, and even peak days were a far cry from the current frenzy lasting from May to October. Cars were smaller and fewer, traffic and parking were not yet major problems, and the year-round population
was more youthful. Block Island Health Services (BIHS) was incorporated in the summer of ’84 to provide “health services of all kinds to the Block Island community.” Ever since, BIHS has been challenged to keep up with ongoing and accelerating changes to the community’s needs.

Not only has the island changed, but islanders have as well. The senior Lewises are now all in their 70s. While basically healthy, we have developed chronic conditions requiring oversight and management by skilled primary care providers if we are to continue to thrive. We are thankful for the way BIHS has stepped up to the challenge of providing coordinated and comprehensive primary care as we age.

Bringing physical therapy services to BIHS is one highly visible example of the response to community need. When Kay required PT five years ago, it involved leaving the island twice a week at 8 a.m. and getting home after 6 for each appointment. A number of other islanders faced the same challenge, and some were unable to complete a full course of treatment due to travel demands. What a difference when Keith required PT this winter! All his physician consultations and therapy could be done here, with off-island travel required only for advanced imaging.
But there is more to it than that. David Lewis, having moved his primary care to BIHS when he retired to the island, was confronted two years ago with a situation involving complicated, sometimes contradictory, advice from a host of medical specialists. He is extremely gratified to have a primary care doctor who can explain and interpret the ongoing incoming information and help him make the best choices to maintain his strength and health.
Remember also that Dr. Warcup and APRN Laurie Anderson arrived in the spring of 2020 in the opening phase of a global pandemic. While friends in mainland cities spent hours online seeking information and trying to book appointments, Dr. Warcup kept our community informed with regular updates and guidance. On Block Island, testing, vaccinations, and the latest possible treatments have been provided in an orderly and efficient manner. The situation has often been confusing, and knowledge as to the best response has changed over time, but we have weathered the pandemic far better than most due to the organization and coordination of BIHS, the Rescue Squad and Emergency Management.

As the medical center has stepped up to protect and inform our community, the community needs to step up in response. Dr. Warcup has outlined a sensible plan for enhanced primary care and triage of non-emergencies that fits the needs of today’s island. We encourage citizens to read the article in last week’s BI Times, attend one of the Community Chats at the Library (6 p.m. on March 23, and April 6) and watch the presentation made by Dr. Warcup and Alison Warfel to the Town Council on March 2 (see: Town Council March 2, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. - YouTube, starting one hour into the meeting). We also urge the Town Council to support BIHS with a substantial increase in town funding in the next fiscal year.

Keith and Kay Lewis
Off Cooneymus Road