House approves Shekarchi resolution seeking sepsis protocols
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved a resolution sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi calling for the Department of Health to develop protocols to help detect sepsis early and treat it.
The resolution (2019-H 5539) is aimed at helping to prevent loss of life from the potentially fatal condition.
Sepsis is a complication that occurs when a person’s body has an extreme response to an infection. It can cause damage to organs in the body and can be life-threatening if not treated. If sepsis becomes severe enough or develops into septic shock, the chances of dying from sepsis increase significantly.
Leader Shekarchi introduced the legislation after hearing the heart-wrenching stories of several Rhode Island children who lost their lives in recent years as a result of sepsis.
“Sepsis moves quickly. In many cases, a person, especially children, may be perfectly healthy until they develop an infection. If that infection leads to sepsis, they could be gone in a matter of a few days. The first signs can be difficult to diagnose, but catching it early is critical to saving lives. Our state needs to make sure that there’s a strong set of procedures to follow that help health professionals identify sepsis at its first signs, and to make sure people with it receive the most effective treatment immediately,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).
When the bill was heard by the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare on April 3, the parents of three girls lost to sepsis in recent years testified in favor of it, urging the adoption of best practices throughout the health care system so other families would be spared the devastation theirs experienced.
Five-year-old Layla Charette and 10-year-old Emily Halloran Otrando, both of Cumberland, and 17-year-old Gianna Cirella of Warwick all died after developing sepsis. In Layla’s case, the first signs were nothing alarming, and when she developed a fever one day in 2017, her doctor recommended the usual regimen of fluids, over-the-counter fever-reducer and rest. But in less than a day, her fever spiked, she began vomiting and became delusional. She was rushed to the hospital, but passed away there just two days later.
Emily had no previous respiratory problems when she told her parents one day in 2014 that she was experiencing shortness of breath. It turned out she had enterovirus, and developed a case of sepsis that became fatal in less than 24 hours.
Gianna was a healthy soccer player at Toll Gate High School who also developed sepsis in 2017. Her symptoms began with a sore throat, which was treated with antibiotics. She was seen by three different health care providers in the days before she went to the hospital with sepsis. She died 16 days later.
All the girls’ parents testified that they believe having statewide sepsis protocols in place would help health care providers — not only hospitals, but the physicians who are likely the first to see patients when symptoms begin — to identify potential sepsis cases and treat them before it’s too late.
The House resolution, which does not require Senate approval, respectfully requests the Rhode Island Department of Health to develop statewide evidence-based sepsis protocols for the early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis. It is cosponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) and Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).
Sepsis is the most common cause of death in hospitalized children in both Rhode Island and the rest of the United States. According to a 2018 study from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, only 40 percent of sepsis patients receive proper treatment. Nationwide, only Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and Delaware have lower rates for proper treatment of sepsis.
IN PHOTO: Majority Leader Shekarchi, right, with Alaina Charette, mother of the late Layla Charette. Mrs. Charette was on hand to witness the House passing the resolution calling for sepsis protocols.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903