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Military medical personnel to get sendoff with a Rhode Island spin

The team that helped Rhode Island hospital through some of the COVID-19 pandemic’s toughest times is thanked with a special Good Night Lights

Signs posted in the windows of Rhode Island Hospital in Providence are part of a send-off to the military medical team that helped the hospital through some of the pandemic’s darkest days.Bill Murphy / Lifespan

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Hospital on Friday night will send off the military medical team that helped it through some of the pandemic’s toughest days with a Rhody tradition: Good Night Lights.

The weekly event involves emergency medical vehicles in the city and neighboring East Providence flashing their lights, bright enough for the kids at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, which is on the Rhode Island Hospital campus, to see.

This time they will be sending off the team of 23 doctors, nurses and staff from the 14th Field Hospital military medical unit who have been working at Rhode Island Hospital since January. Members of the team who aren’t working will be able to go to Hasbro to watch along with the kids. They traditionally wave flashlights to signal back at the first responders around the city. The hospital posted signs in the windows thanking the medical team.


“We’re so grateful they invited us to that event,” Army Lt. Col. Edgardo Ramirez, the commander of the 14th Field Hospital, said at a media availability outside Rhode Island Hospital Friday afternoon. “That point where you finally accomplish your mission – it’ll be a good send-off for the team.”

Ramirez, an active-duty member of the Army, said the medical team’s last day providing patient care will be Sunday. The unit is a mobile field hospital, and they were involved in direct patient care. It was separate from the still-ongoing efforts of the National Guard with non-clinical work.

Ramirez had never been to Rhode Island before. The team is based in Georgia, which is warmer than Rhode Island, and Ramirez is originally from Puerto Rico, which is a lot warmer. But he made friendships that will endure. He loved the food, too, particularly the Italian on Federal Hill.

“We definitely will stay in touch,” Ramirez said.


Things are looking much better at Rhode Island Hospital as the winter 2021-2022 COVID-19 wave ebbed. The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 is down to about 34 or so, from a high of 175 at the height of the most recent wave. On top of all the virus cases, the hospital, like many around the country, was dealing with a massive staff shortage that forced it to close beds.

The medical team helped fill that gap immensely, said Dr. Saul Weingart, president of Rhode Island Hospital. But the problem isn’t fully resolved, and the departure of the team would make things a bit more difficult over the weekend, maybe having to close a bed or two. The long-term projections, though, show that contract labor should start to get easier to find.

More to the point, the hospital is now proverbially battle-tested with COVID, several times over.

“We know how to do this,” Weingart said. “The first time the roof leaks, you run around, you figure out where the buckets are. The second time, you know where the buckets are. The third time, you’ve repaved the roof. This is right in our wheelhouse. This is becoming part of our repertoire.”

Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.