ELECTING not to join the elitist game of medical tourism, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has drawn attention to the decay in the domestic health sector and Nigeria’s poor leadership. In a well-publicised episode, the VP put the sector under public scrutiny by having a surgery done in Lagos. In opting for local care, he brushed aside advice from several quarters to travel abroad as is the wont of most public office holders when they fall ill. Nigeria’s insensitive and self-indulgent political class, exemplified by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), should take a leaf out of Osinbajo’s book.
On the bright side, Osinbajo’s local procedure would have saved Nigeria from using scarce foreign exchange for his treatment overseas, no matter how small. If Nigeria had a conscionable leadership, it would have consolidated on the VP’s act. But if experience and the rot in the health system is a guide, the moment will likely pass as an ephemeral tonic.
Truly, the Buhari regime made heavy weather of Osinbajo’s preference. Instead of travelling overseas as the country’s elite do – even for minor ailments –, the VP, who reportedly suffered a leg injury during a game of squash, chose to have the surgery in Nigeria. Ecstatic, Nigeria’s medical community described it as vote of confidence for a much maligned and neglected sector by successive governments at every level.
Certainly, there is some merit to this. Nigerian hospitals have successfully conducted major operations, including open-heart surgeries, kidney transplants and separation of Siamese twins. Osinbajo’s successful surgery is another plus. Medical practitioners from Nigeria are highly regarded across the world.
Despite this bright side, there are deep-seated issues encumbering the sector. Medical tourism constitutes a colossal financial drain on Nigeria. The Nigerian Medical Association says the country spends $1 billion annually on it. Medical and education tourism combined drains $10 billion from the country annually, said Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor.
Across the country, public healthcare infrastructure – hospitals, clinics, laboratories –is dilapidated. Most of the equipment needed is imported, making them expensive and cost of treatment out of reach for most citizens. Consequently, emergencies claim many lives and many fatalities are avoidable. Existing equipment is broken and ill-maintained.
By NMA data, only 40,000 of the over 80,000 medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria practise at home. The others work overseas. That gives Nigeria a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:4,000-1:5,000 as against the 1:600 recommended by the WHO. The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria said 5,000 of the registered 30,000 pharmacists in Nigeria had travelled out of the country as of 2019.
Meanwhile, the country contributes 34 per cent to the global maternal deaths. It means one in 22 women is likely to die in pregnancy or during delivery, compared to one in 4,900 in the developed world, says the WHO. In 2019, Nigeria overtook India as the highest contributor to global under-five deaths with 858,000 against India’s 824,000 deaths.
Additionally, Nigeria houses the highest number of the poor in the world, which makes treatment very expensive and out of reach to many simply because drugs are mostly imported. Drugs will cost more as the naira loses value and domestic drug manufacturers, hit by higher costs, struggle to stay afloat.
There are more perspectives to Osinbajo’s choice. Painfully, it reinforces the decrepit health system in Nigeria, one in which the elite does not repose any iota of confidence. From Buhari to the governors, all they do is pay lip service to the health sector. Whenever they require medical treatment, they take the next available flight out of the country. They have completely abandoned their responsibility to provide qualitative health care services and infrastructure.
In Buhari’s case, the British health system has literally sustained his health. Shortly after assuming office, he started embarking on medical trips to the United Kingdom. By the calculations of The PUNCH, Buhari had spent 201 days in total on medical tourism to the UK as of August 2021. Borne by the hard-pressed taxpayer, the cost is staggering.
There is a lengthy list of high-profile politicians who have spurned treatment at home in preference for medical tourism. India, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States are their major destinations. At different times, the presidential candidates of the major political parties have also opted for medical tourism. Many other political figures are enamoured of foreign medical treatment.
A former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, is currently battling to replace his daughter’s kidney in a UK hospital and along with his wife, is ensnared in a criminal prosecution. In an episode that graphically captures Nigeria’s shame, a former President, Umaru Yar’Adua, sought treatment for pericarditis in Germany and Saudi Arabia before dying in office in May 2010.
Therefore, there should be an integrated approach to mend the broken system. The President and state governors can take the initial drastic step of insisting that serving political appointees should not engage in medical tourism. The federal and state governments should also not foot the bill of any official, serving, or former that opts for overseas medical treatment. This should trigger comprehensive corrective action to fix the domestic health institutions.
There should be real investment – from the training of professionals to the retention of their services through adequate remuneration – and provision, upgrade, and maintenance of health infrastructure. More resources should be committed to the sector by all levels of government.
Most critically, Nigeria should build from bottom up, which is the case in Cuba, adjudged by the WHO as having the best-run health system in the world. There, primary healthcare takes precedence. In Nigeria, the secondary and tertiary health institutions are overburdened because the primary healthcare system has virtually collapsed. Reviving it should be a priority for the state governments. The requisite staff should be trained and constantly re-trained for this task.
Ultimately, the National Health Insurance Scheme should be reviewed, expanded, and made more accessible to all Nigerians.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Local nurse Laura Newey is launching her business, Bellatas Medical Aesthetics, in the Spa City.
Originally founded in 2019 in Clifton Park, the med spa recently established its new location in the Blackmer Building at 28 Clinton St. in Saratoga Springs.
Bellatas Medical Aesthetics is a full-service medical spa providing aesthetic treatments to reduce wrinkles and help patients achieve a smoother and more youthful appearance in their skin.
This is accomplished through advanced med spa treatments including injection and filler treatments for wrinkle reduction, medical grade skincare products and minimally invasive radiofrequency microneedling collagen treatments via the popular Morpheus8 platform, as well as Intense pulsed light (IPL) laser treatments via Lumecca, optimized to treat skin pigmentation, superficial vessels, skin texture and/or photodamage.
A North Carolina native and graduate of the University of North Carolina, Newey is a nurse practitioner and master injector trained and certified in medical aesthetics.
She began her career as a registered nurse in a busy level-one trauma center in North Carolina, where she was one of only a few nurse graduates to be hand selected for advanced training and placement.
Following many years of medical practice in North Carolina, Newey moved with her family to Saratoga Springs, her husband’s hometown.
In 2013, Newey completed her master’s degree and began her nurse practitioner career at the Center For Rheumatology, where she developed her skills as a medical provider in whole-patient assessments, diagnoses and treatments, including procedures such as joint injections.
Today, along with her entrepreneurial endeavor with Bellatas Medical Aesthetics, Newey continues to work as a nurse practitioner in the urgent care/emergency setting at Saratoga Hospital, which requires a wide array of medical and procedural expertise.
Newey is nationally certified by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and has completed numerous advanced certifications in medical aesthetics. She is also a member of the Nurse Practitioner Association of New York.
Her involvement in aesthetics spans many years of dealing with her own skincare issues and the desire for a smoother, more radiant complexion.
Newey’s mission is to bring the patient-centered care that is at the core of her training and experience, coupled with her advanced medical knowledge in aesthetics, in order to guide patients through individualized aesthetic treatments, provide an enjoyable experience, and achieve successful, natural results.
“Whether in the urgent care setting, or at Bellatas, my approach is always a patient-centered approach,” she said in a press release. “Both areas of medicine are very different from one another, however, I am passionate about all aspects of Nursing and patient care. At Bellatas, I have more time to get to know my patients in order to tailor a unique care plan, specific to each patient.
“My approach is very conservative, I consider it a success if my patients look refreshed, yet no one suspects they came to see me!”
In addition to the necessary tools of the trade of a medspa, such as injections, fillers, and medical-grade skincare products, Bellatas is the area’s exclusive provider for the popular Morpheus8 RF microneedling platform. Both the Morpheus8 and Lumecca IPL treatment platforms have become very popular among Bellatas patients for full body skin treatments.
“It has been very exciting to invest in this treatment platform and wonderful to be able to offer this type of treatment often found only with much larger medspas in NYC, Miami, etc.,” Newey said in the release.
Newey is the daughter-in-law of Dr. William Newey, who was the director of radiology at Saratoga Hospital, where he worked for over 25 years, and Darlene Newey, who was past president of both the Saratoga Chapter of the New York Women’s Medical Auxiliary Board and the Flower and Fruit Mission of Saratoga Hospital, as well as a past board member of the Saratoga Hospital Foundation.
“It is wonderful to see the Newey name continue to play a role both at Saratoga Hospital,” Newey said in the release, “as well as associated with a successful, entrepreneurial venture such as Bellatas.”
Looking ahead, Newey is excited to be part of the Saratoga Springs business community, the release said, not only in terms of health, but also wellness, which has played a large role in the history of Saratoga Springs.
More information about Bellatas Medical Aesthetics is available online at www.BellatasMedSpa.com or by calling (518) 893-6120.
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Anchorage health director Joe Gerace resigned Monday, hours after Alaska Public Media confronted him and Mayor Dave Bronson’s office with evidence that Gerace had vastly overstated and misrepresented both his educational credentials and military background.
A city press release attributed Gerace’s resignation to “severe health issues” including a stroke last week that left him hospitalized. He “suffered another event” on Monday, according to the release.
A joint investigation with American Public Media found that Gerace had falsely presented himself as a high-ranking officer in the Alaska National Guard with a pair of master’s degrees in business administration and physician assistant studies. Those credentials led Bronson to appoint Gerace director of the city’s Health Department last year, putting him in charge of the response to a global pandemic and a local homelessness crisis.
Gerace doesn’t have a master’s degree, let alone two, records show. And he isn’t a member of the National Guard, either. His lofty title of lieutenant colonel comes from his position in the Alaska State Defense Force, a group of volunteers that sometimes assists the Guard, but is not part of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Reached by phone Monday morning, Gerace admitted that he was not in the Guard. He refused to say where he got one of his master’s degrees. And he claimed he got the other one from a school that didn’t offer master’s degrees at the time and has no record of him as a student. At times he insisted his resume was factual, and at other times admitted that statements in it were inaccurate.
“I could see how they’d be misleading for some people,” he said. “If somebody asks me, I clarify them right away.”
Gerace’s year as health director has been marked by a COVID-19 surge that overwhelmed the city’s two largest hospitals, a rash of staff resignations and a homelessness policy that critics say has led to a “humanitarian crisis.”
Running the Health Department is a challenging job even for a qualified manager. It has more than 100 employees and a $15 million budget. In addition to COVID and homelessness, the department oversees such varied areas as food assistance, air quality monitoring, restaurant inspection and animal control.
The mayor and other city leaders knew that one of Gerace’s former employees had raised questions about the accuracy of his resume before the Anchorage Assembly confirmed Gerace as health director. The former employee emailed her concerns to the Assembly. And she testified in a closed-door Assembly meeting that the mayor attended.
Despite her warnings in November, neither Bronson nor the Assembly stopped to verify Gerace’s credentials. Immediately following the hearing, the Assembly confirmed Gerace’s appointment to a job that pays nearly $120,000 a year and is responsible for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
Bronson did not respond to a list of questions about Gerace’s credentials earlier in the day Monday. In a brief phone conversation, Bronson spokesperson Corey Allen Young disputed some of the information presented about Gerace’s credentials. He said the city would not be able to provide answers by Monday afternoon because of Gerace’s medical emergency. He declined to be recorded.
Gerace presents himself as a military man — both on his resume and in his personal life. Former employees at a COVID vaccination site he managed say he encouraged staff to address him as “Colonel Joe.”
Gerace’s actual military experience is limited, and some of the claims he has made are misleading or false.
Gerace hasn’t served in any part of the Army since the 1990s, according to Defense Department databases. He enlisted in the Washington National Guard in 1991 and then transferred to the Army Reserves. When he left the service in 1999, records show, his rank was just one step above private.
But in the Alaska State Defense Force, Gerace started as a lieutenant colonel. The ASDF is a volunteer-based organization that is largely made up of former military servicemen and women like Gerace. It has fewer than 200 members, compared to the roughly 3,800 soldiers and airmen in the Alaska National Guard.
Unlike the National Guard, ASDF members are not part of the U.S. military, and they aren’t even employees of the state. Until recently, ASDF members were required to supply their own uniforms, which say “Alaska,” instead of “Army.” Under state law, the ASDF is considered part of Alaska’s “organized militia” along with the Guard and the Alaska Naval Militia. It uses ranks that mirror the military’s, but its regulations restrict members from using them outside of official communications.
Records show Gerace not only uses his ASDF lieutenant colonel rank liberally, he has also stoked the misperception that he holds that position in the Alaska National Guard.
In July 2021, Gerace falsely told the Bronson administration that he was a “Lieutenant Colonel – Alaska Guard.” He made the claim in an email obtained by Alaska Public Media that he sent to Bronson’s community engagement director. Two months later, Bronson nominated him for health director.
At an Assembly hearing in October, Bronson’s human resources director, Niki Tshibaka, repeated the falsehood, introducing Gerace as “a lieutenant colonel in the Alaska National Guard.” That echoed a press release from Bronson’s office describing Gerace as a commander for the Guard. Gerace said nothing during that hearing to correct the record.
“Wow, quite the introduction to follow,” Gerace said after Tshibaka spoke.
Gerace said in a Monday phone interview that he did correct the record to Tshibaka later, in private.
“He is not a member of the Alaska National Guard,” its communications director Alan Brown said in an email Monday evening. “If [a] current member of the [Alaska Organized Militia] were found to have falsely represented their service, it could result in adverse action.”
Former servicemen and women who join the Alaska State Defense Force typically start at the same rank they had in the military. It is unclear how Gerace rocketed from E-4 specialist, an enlisted rank, to lieutenant colonel, a high-ranking officer.
Simon Brown II, commander of the Alaska State Defense Force, said Monday he was calling a special staff meeting to review and verify the documents Gerace submitted with his application, which would have included his military discharge paperwork and copies of his degrees. Brown submitted a letter recommending Gerace for the Health Department job, and Brown seemed troubled by the suggestion that Gerace had misrepresented himself.
“I’m hoping your information is wrong,” Brown said.
Alaska Public Media obtained a different resume that Gerace used in 2021 to get a job as vaccine operations director for Visit Healthcare in Anchorage. Visit Healthcare ran several COVID testing and vaccination sites around the city.
The resume Gerace gave to Visit Healthcare includes a dubious depiction of his military accomplishments. It says “I had 24 years of service,” triple the amount of time the Army’s database shows. Gerace also claimed on the resume that he had “5 combat deployments.”
None of those deployments appear in the Army’s databases, and Gerace admitted during an interview that the claim on the resume was false.
“I cannot explain that,” he said. “I never served in a combat zone.”
But he went on to explain that he had been deployed “through a lot of different agencies” like the Red Cross in “austere conditions, very, very bad conditions, disasters and other stuff.”
As for the 24 years of service, he said that referred to “mixed service” – including his time in the Alaska State Defense Force – not just his work in the military. The Alaska National Guard said he joined the ASDF in 2020. Combined with his time in the Washington National Guard and the Army Reserve, that would bring him to 11 years, not 24.
Public records also contradict the educational achievements Gerace touted on the resume he submitted to the Anchorage Assembly last year.
The resume says Gerace got a master’s in physician assistant studies in 1993 and a second one in business administration in 1998, on top of a bachelor’s of science in chemistry and chemical engineering in 1988.
But his resume does not list the higher education institutions that supposedly granted him these degrees.
In a phone interview, Gerace refused to say where he got his master’s in physician assistant studies, promising to send documentation later. But he claimed he received his MBA from Henry Cogswell College, a small school in Everett, Washington, that went out of business 16 years ago.
Henry Cogswell College was not authorized to offer MBAs, according to records from the Washington Student Achievement Council, a state body that oversees higher education. David Smith, a business professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University who taught at Henry Cogswell College in 1998, when Gerace claims to have graduated, confirmed that.
“No MBAs during my time,” Smith wrote in an email. He also had no memory of a student named Joe Gerace.
The Washington Student Achievement Council took custody of Henry Cogswell College’s student transcripts when the school closed in 1996. It has no record of Gerace attending the school either.
Confronted with these facts during an interview, Gerace was unable to explain how he could have gotten an MBA from a school that didn’t offer them or why the records showed no indication he was ever a student.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’d have to ask them because there was some when the school closed, there was some heavy confusion about how to even get our stuff.”
On Monday, Gerace also acknowledged that he did not have two bachelor’s degrees, as he claimed on the resume he provided to the Assembly. He said he had only one – a major in chemistry. He said he minored in chemical engineering.
Public records from Washington State, where Gerace lived for much of his adult life, also contradict the educational background he claimed on the resume. Records contain at least four instances in which he listed his educational credentials. None mention graduate degrees.
The records include a handwritten application to modify child support payments that Gerace filled out in 2000, because he was more than $10,000 behind on payments to his first wife. The document, which he submitted to a court under penalty of perjury, says that the highest level of education he completed was a bachelor’s of science.
In other filings in the same case, he said he had a “bachelor’s degree” and that his highest level of education was “college.” That was two years after Gerace now says he earned his second master’s degree.
And 11 years later, when he ran unsuccessfully for a city council seat in a suburb of Tacoma, Washington, Gerace wrote in his official candidate bio that he had a B.S. in business administration and a B.A. in history. No chemistry. No chemical engineering. No physician assistant studies. No mention of master’s degrees.
Gerace said he left out his master’s degrees because he thought voters would judge him for having a lot of education.
“People don’t want to hire an old guy that knows everything,” he said of the bio.
The resume Gerace used to get his earlier job at Visit Healthcare makes no mention of bachelor’s degrees, let alone master’s. Under education, the resume lists only a “paramedic certificate” from Northern Virginia Community College, also known as NOVA. The college confirmed that Gerace enrolled there in 1984, when he was 16, and left three years later. The college’s files show no evidence of Gerace receiving a paramedic certificate.
“We have no record of a degree conferred,” NOVA’s Freedom of Information Act Officer Kathy Thompson wrote in an email.
Thompson said Gerace reapplied to the community college just two years ago, a few months before he got the job at Visit Healthcare. He sought to study emergency medical services and general studies with a focus on health science, Thompson said, but he didn’t end up enrolling.
It would seem unusual for someone with a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees to pursue an associate’s degree from a community college.
Gerace claimed he reapplied to the college simply to access his transcripts and never had any intention of enrolling.
The Alaska National Guard seemed under the impression that Gerace had attended the University of Virginia. It wrote a Facebook post about him in 2020 as part of a series called “faces of the Alaska State Defense Force” that said he “studied medicine” there. A profile of Gerace on the professional networking site RocketReach also claims he went there, in addition to NOVA and Henry Cogswell College.
The University of Virginia has no record of Gerace studying there, deputy spokesman Bethanie Glover wrote in an email.
Alan Brown, the Alaska National Guard spokesman, said he was unable to determine why the Guard had posted that Gerace had studied medicine there.
“Normally, this type of information would come from a personal interview,” he wrote.
Gerace said he “corrected that too,” though as of Monday, the post still appeared on the Guard’s Facebook page.
Mayor Dave Bronson is a conservative who narrowly defeated his progressive opponent by opposing COVID-19 health restrictions and vowing to address homelessness. His 13 months in office have been embroiled in controversy.
The mayor ordered workers at the city’s water treatment plant to stop adding fluoride to the water system, and then his administration misled the public about it. He spoke at a gathering of COVID-19 vaccine skeptics during one of the city’s deadliest waves of the virus. And he fired an official investigating alleged offensive comments made by his deputy library director.
Several of his appointees faced tough confirmation battles because of questions about their qualifications. More than a third of the directors of city departments and divisions have resigned or been fired under Bronson, an analysis by Alaska Public Media found. Three have filed lawsuits against the administration saying they were wrongfully terminated.
Bronson’s first choice for health director was a Republican insider with a background in health care finance. David Morgan came under fire for offensive Facebook comments and after he refused to acknowledge to an Alaska’s News Source reporter that a pandemic was happening. Morgan resigned after it became clear that the Assembly wouldn’t confirm him.
That’s when Bronson turned to Gerace. He was already on the administration’s radar because of his role at Visit Healthcare.
A few days after Bronson took office, Gerace sent an email to Portia Noble, the mayor’s community engagement director. The email referred to a previous phone conversation with Noble and included an extensive list of his qualifications.
In the July 12 email, Gerace claimed to be an officer in the Alaska Guard with two master’s degrees. He also said he’d been a physician’s assistant since 1992.
If the Mayor’s office had searched freely available online licensing databases for physician assistants in the three states Gerace has called home — Virginia, Washington and Alaska — it would have found no record of him holding such a license.
Gerace said that his email was referring to the physician assistant’s degree he claims to have received in 1993. He said that his statement in the email that he was a physician assistant “might be unintentional.”
Emily Ostereicher, a spokesperson for Visit Healthcare, said the company believed that Gerace was a PA when it hired him.
A month after Morgan stepped aside, Bronson appointed Gerace.
During Gerace’s confirmation process, Assembly members said they received about 10 emails and several phone calls from people who had interacted with Gerace at Visit Healthcare, Suburban Propane, where he managed customer service, the American Red Cross, where he volunteered, and even at the city health department during his brief time as unconfirmed acting director. The allegations included unprofessional management and favoritism, as well as concerns about his qualifications.
Emma Jacobson, a nurse who Gerace had fired from Visit Healthcare, told the Assembly that his resume didn’t add up.
“I am concerned with Mr. Gerace’s varying accounting of his own certifications,” she wrote in a November 8 email to Assembly members. “He has represented himself at times as a Physician’s Assistant or as a Paramedic; he has given accounts of his time as both in the military to many different people on many different occasions. I could not find evidence to support this in national databases.”
Tshibaka, Bronson’s human resources director, dismissed the complaints at the time as “false,” “inaccurate” and “pure character assassination.” He apologized to Gerace at an Assembly meeting for what he called the “disparagement of your sterling character.”
Jacobson was undeterred. She said she repeated her concerns during a closed-door Assembly meeting attended by Mayor Bronson. Jen Wallace, another former employee of Gerace’s who was present at the closed-door meeting, corroborated Jacobson’s account. The minutes from the portion of the meeting that was open to the public also show the mayor was present.
Jacobson said nobody seemed interested in following up on her concerns.
The Assembly confirmed Gerace in a 7-3 vote that same day.
“I was heartbroken, and I was tearful,” Jacobson said. “I was so afraid for the city.”
In Gerace’s 10 months as health director, he led the department through a COVID-19 surge and a major transition in its response to homelessness. His tenure was rocky and contentious.
Within a few months of Gerace’s confirmation, nearly all senior staff remaining from the previous administration resigned or were fired, costing the department decades of experience.
Last fall, two of Anchorage’s largest hospitals declared crisis standards — a protocol for rationing health care — during a surge of COVID cases.
At the time, a department employee complained to Assembly members about links on the Anchorage Health Department website that suggested the antiparasitic drug ivermectin could help treat COVID-19, something major health organizations say is unproven.
More recently, the health department has come under fire for what advocates for the homeless say was a botched closure of the city’s main shelter at the Sullivan Arena.
Gerace closed the shelter months before a new large-scale shelter space was scheduled to open. In the month leading up to the closure, his department told the shelter not to accept new guests. Homeless service providers say that left many people with nowhere to live except tent camps in city parks.
Police data show that move coincided with a sharp increase in the number of “outdoor deaths” in the city — which typically refers to homeless residents. Six people died outdoors in June, the highest one-month total in at least two and a half years and about four times the monthly average during that period. There were three additional deaths in July, also more than normal.
Gerace said Monday morning that he had already decided to leave the administration but at the time, he didn’t specify a date.
“Due to a accurate medical emergency,” he said, “I’m unable to perform the duties of health director. So I have submitted my resignation.”
He said he was proud of his time at the department and his career.
“There’s never been a day in 40 years that I haven’t cared for people,” he said. “I truly care for people. And I don’t think anyone said that I’ve done anything bad with the city.”
The resume Gerace used to get the health director job is long on volunteer experience and short on actual employment. The only paid, full-time job it lists is the position at Visit Healthcare, which he held for just seven months in 2021.
Still, Gerace touted his business experience.
“I have made lots of money in business,” Gerace said in the phone interview. “That’s what I prefer to do.”
Gerace’s actual work history, compiled through public records, includes stints as a police officer, a firefighter and the sales manager for a construction supply company. He worked at a Chevy dealership, drove a tow truck and delivered building materials for Lowe’s. At one point, two years after he supposedly earned an MBA, he told a court he was working odd jobs for the owner of a mobile home in exchange for room and board. It was part of his explanation for failing to make child support payments.
Gerace’s own forays into running businesses have been troubled and short-lived.
He opened a gun store in Renton, Washington, in 2000 but filed for bankruptcy personally and on behalf of the store just two years later. He filed again the following year but never completed the bankruptcy process.
In 2016, Gerace entered into an agreement to purchase a company that ran a Chevron gas station in Anchorage. Two years later, the man who had sold it to him filed a lawsuit claiming Gerace hadn’t made the agreed-upon payments. The case was settled out of court.
The state environmental agency cited the Chevron station under Gerace’s management for not keeping records on its monitoring for leaks and not properly maintaining leak response equipment.
Gerace seemed to have “intentionally made a false representation regarding required leak detection records to the inspector, which is, in fact, willfully making a false statement to the state,” Cheryl Paige, who oversees the regulation of the state’s underground fuel storage tanks, wrote in a 2018 email obtained through a public records request.
Gerace no longer operates the Chevron station. He disputed the claim that he had falsified records, saying his bad record keeping happened because he wasn’t properly trained by a former business partner.
He also briefly leased a Shell station in Spenard for about a year, he said.
Gerace’s company was sued in small claims court for about $5,000 in unpaid bills by a contractor that installed a security system there.
Still, Gerace appears to be planning new ventures in the business world. Last year, he registered 10 new business names with the state including Alaska Medical Response, The EMT Academy, W.W.A.M.I. Fire & EMS Training, 5 Star Towing & Service, Big Joe’s and GI Joe’s. In April he incorporated Whittier Rescue Squad, a nonprofit organization created to provide ambulance service, according to its filing with the state. Its other directors are Gerace’s wife and his executive assistant. Whittier City Manager Jim Hunt said he only recently heard of the Whittier Rescue Squad and said it has no association with the city’s emergency response services.
Gerace said that he got the business licenses in order to protect the names.
The resume Gerace submitted to the Anchorage Assembly touts his work as a firefighter and paramedic, “at various agencies over many years.” Gerace is not licensed as a paramedic in Alaska, only an advanced EMT, which is a lower-skilled designation. He volunteered for just a few months — not years — at the Seward Volunteer Ambulance Department and Whittier Volunteer Fire Department, officials there say.
Like almost every state, Alaska requires paramedics to be certified by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Gerace is not listed in the registry as a paramedic.
In 2020, however, he procured a paramedic license in Montana, one of only three states that does not require NREMT certification.
Gerace said he applied for and received that license using his certifications as an EMT. It was later rescinded, he said, after an official realized the credentials he submitted did not qualify him to become a paramedic.
“I did nothing nefarious,” he said. “Someone down there reviewed it and said yes initially and then someone changed their mind.”
Washington State has no record of Gerace holding a paramedic license, either. He had an EMT license there in the early 1990s, but it expired in 1993.
Gerace has been divorced three times. His second wife accused him of forging documents he filed in court as part of their divorce.
“During our marriage I found that Mr. Gerace was quite willing to do anything and say anything to achieve his ends,” RaeLea Olson-Gerace wrote in a court filing. “This included deliberate falsehoods and the post-dating and pre-dating of documents when it served his interests.”
Olson-Gerace, who has since remarried and is now RaeLea Hurt, declined to comment for this story.
Jennifer Lu contributed to this story. It was produced as a collaboration between American Public Media Reports and Alaska Public Media.
Medical alert systems like Life Alert, Medical Guardian and others can be critical to the health of older adults, so why doesn’t Medicare cover them? Because they don’t fit Medicare’s definition of “durable medical equipment,” says Casey Schwarz, an attorney at Medicare Rights, a national nonprofit dedicated to making sure older adults get full access to Medicare benefits.
“Federal law defines what Medicare pays for,” she says. “And since they are not medical devices, they’re not part of the medical benefit.” She compares them to items like home wheelchair ramps, which are essential for mobility but aren’t medically necessary.
When you enroll in Medicare, you’re automatically covered by Part A, which includes hospital care, skilled nursing facility costs, hospice, lab tests, surgery and home health care. Part B is optional and costs about $148 a month. It’s typically deducted from your monthly Social Security benefit. Part B covers services deemed medically necessary for diagnosing or treating a medical condition and medical equipment like canes, oxygen tanks and blood sugar test strips.
Medicare coverage can change, as witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic when telehealth proved essential in keeping patients connected with their physicians and care team. However, the services covered changed—not the devices through which patients received those services, explains Schwarz. “Medical alert systems, like iPads [used to connect to telehealth services], are not covered by Medicare,” she says.
If you’re interested in a medical alert system for yourself or a family member, consider health insurance coverage through another part of Medicare called Part C, or Medicare Advantage plans. These are plans offered by major private health insurance companies approved by Medicare. For a monthly premium, they provide the same Medicare Part A and Part B coverage, plus other benefits, such as vision, dental and over-the-counter medications.
Some Medicare Advantage plans cover medical alert systems, also referred to as personal emergency response systems (PERS). Medicare Advantage plans vary from state to state, so check if medical alert systems are covered by plans where you live.
CARLSBAD, Calif., August 01, 2022--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ra Medical Systems, Inc. (NYSE American: RMED) ("Ra Medical" or the "Company) announces that its audited consolidated financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021 included in the Company’s Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on March 24, 2022 and Amended Form 10-K/A filed with the SEC on July 7, 2022 contained an audit report from its independent registered public accounting firm which included a going concern emphasis of matter paragraph. Release of this information is required by Section 610(b) of the NYSE American Company Guide. It does not represent any change or amendment to any of the Company’s filings for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021.
About Ra Medical Systems
Ra Medical Systems manufactures the DABRA excimer laser and catheters for the treatment of certain vascular diseases. DABRA has been cleared by the FDA for crossing chronic total occlusions in patients with symptomatic infrainguinal lower extremity vascular disease and has an intended use for ablating a channel in occlusive peripheral vascular disease. In addition, DABRA has been granted CE mark clearance for the endovascular treatment of infrainguinal arteries via atherectomy and for crossing total occlusions.
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A draft law to replace the 1940 Drugs and Cosmetics Act with a Drugs, Medical Devices and Cosmetics Bill 2022 was uploaded by the Union health ministry in early July, seeking public comments and objections, within 45 days. The primary objective of any drug law is to ensure that the medical products sold in a country are safe, effective and conform to prescribed quality standards. This article addresses how the new law could help consumers but what more is required.
The first major feature in the new Bill that affects consumers relates to e-commerce. The regulatory cover will come when the rules are notified but the inclusion of a provision in the Bill is reassuring. Presently, online sales of medicines account for a fraction of the total pharma sales in India but are forecast to grow exponentially. The traditional, retail chemist sector has been the mainstay for the population but has generally been unorganised. The sale of substandard, even counterfeit, drugs — particularly in smaller towns and villages — remains widespread.
There are several pros and cons concerning online sales. Like all online shopping, the consumer gets the advantage of discounts and the comfort of shopping from home. During Covid, e-pharmacy platforms were promoted by government digital platforms, so the experience of regulating the sector is available. In normal times, e-commerce can surmount three uniquely Indian disadvantages The first relates to climatic conditions, which require medicines to be stored at below 30 degrees Celsius and 70 per cent relative humidity — unattainable in most of India. It can mandate establishing a back-end brick and mortar store for drug supply having good storage conditions. This is what happens in all countries the world over that allow e-commerce. It can encrypt all transactions otherwise impossible to track.
The second advantage of e-commerce could be fulfilling a legal requirement — providing a bill to the consumer and retaining one copy bearing the batch numbers and expiry dates of the drugs. In addition, the practice of accessing prescription drugs over-the-counter would abate. There are presently over 540 Schedule H drugs that require a doctor’s prescription and the fact that they can be easily accessed over-the-counter is well known. In the case of e-commerce, registration of a pharmacy can require enrollment with the central and state drug control organisations and the practice of uploading a prescription from a registered medical practitioner can be enforced. Some Indian e-pharmacy outlets have begun facilitating getting a prescription after tele-consultations.
The flipside of shopping for medical drugs on the internet is that it could encourage overuse or incomplete use of drugs, increase dependency on habit-forming medicine — for example, sleep-inducing drugs or self-medication with products for weight loss, male enhancement, even treating mental illness — which is fraught with dangerous consequences. The rules can easily exclude identified medication or make access stringent. On balance, however, the advantage lies in facilitating e-commerce for medical drugs.
The draft law also proposes according a greater focus on medical devices, which include thousands of engineered apparatuses like stents, joint implants, pacemakers, catheters, etc, which require quality regulation. Rules for medical devices were notified in 2017 but now it is proposed to establish a statutory Medical Device Technical Advisory Board, with experts from the fields of atomic energy, science and technology, electronics, and related fields like biomedical technology to guide the process. This is a welcome move that will bring in the required expertise.
What the Bill does not address is the need to stop the continued mismanagement of the wholesale and retail drugs trade in India – a nightmare for every state drugs controller. The problem ranges from Bhagirath Palace in Chandni Chowk, Delhi — Asia’s biggest drug wholesale market some say — or the unqualified practitioner at the other end of the spectrum, jabbing steroids into poor and uneducated patients. In the past, raids — whether at drug wholesale hubs or small pharmacies — have unearthed counterfeit and spurious drugs but have resulted in little deterrence. Drugs move from the manufacturers to the carrying and forwarding agents who, in turn, assign the drugs to “registered wholesalers or stockists” located in Bhagirath Palace or other state drug wholesale hubs. Rule 64 (2) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945 lays down that a wholesale drug licence can be given to a qualified pharmacist or one who has passed the matriculation examination or its equivalent or a graduate with one year’s experience in dealing with drug sale. This is a relic from 80 years ago. When the country is reported to have over 7,00,000 pharmacists, this anachronism must be discarded.
In fairness, it was sought to be corrected in December 2016 by deleting the above clauses from the Drugs Rules and a draft was even gazetted in 2016 on the recommendations of the health ministry’s Drugs Consultative Committee headed by the Drugs Controller General (India) and subsequently by the Drugs Technical Advisory Committee headed by the Director General of Health Services. But after seven years, the eligibility criteria continue to allow a matriculate or an ordinary graduate (albeit with a few years experience,) to get a licence as a wholesaler or stockist. It is essential to introduce a binding and enabling provision to only licence qualified pharmacists and put the safety of millions of citizens before the self-preservation of a few thousand wholesalers and stockists.
And that brings me to the consumer side of the sale of drugs, particularly in small pharmacies. My research and field study — “Unqualified Medical Practitioners in India”, published by Shiv Nadar University in 2017 — describes how easily prescription drugs can be purchased from a medical shop where a proxy licencee provides legal cover in absentia to the shop owner. That he himself possesses zero knowledge about pharmaceuticals has not bothered any state regulator. This must be stopped. Unless digitisation of procurement, inventory control and accountability for dispensing drugs gets encrypted into a digital trail, random raids and inspections will serve no purpose.
The debate should not be between e-commerce and retail sale. It should be between being compliant and non-compliant.
The writer is former secretary, Ministry of Health. Views are personal
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TORONTO, July 26, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Entourage Health Corp. ( TSX-V:ENTG ) ( OTCQX:ETRGF ) ( FSE:4WE ) (“ Entourage ” or the“ Company ”), a Canadian producer and distributor of award-winning cannabis products is pleased to announce the expansion of its Starseed Medicinal (“ Starseed ”) offerings and services as it partners with HelloMD, a leading online cannabis telehealth Company, to expand patient access to experienced and knowledgeable healthcare practitioners across Canada. With its Starseed patient base growing over 50% since merging under the Entourage family in late 2019, the Company has expanded partnerships with unions, employers, insurers and benefit providers which has seen a surge in patient registrations.
Additionally, Starseed debuted a first-of-its-kind digital Patient Treatment Plan as a set of core offerings available to registered patients looking for tailored products along with practical dosing guidelines based on recommendations from a health care practitioner. With the launch, Starseed is the first known provider to offer standardized dosing regimens which could be used as alternate approaches to therapy for various indications including those relating to the pain triad (chronic pain, sleep and emotional distress), opioid displacement, and mental health support.
“Expanding our medical platform with enriched patient care, services and new products is reshaping how Canadians access medical cannabis and exemplifies Starseed's commitment to improving patient outcomes,” said Joseph Mele, Chief Commercial Officer, Entourage.“We're partnering with HelloMD and its network of experienced practitioners to complement our medical team of experts addressing the needs of our growing patient base. Additionally, we continue to listen to our patients and will be providing them the additional educational support they seek. With the launch of our individualized Patient Treatment Plans, clients and providers can build programs based on specific medical cannabis products and dosing schedule being used to meet their needs.”
Patient Treatment Plans, New Products and Launch of Virtual Education Resource Centre
The Company's professional network of practitioners now specialize in developing personalized Patient Treatment Plans, a standardized and simplified dosing tool, designed to Boost medical cannabis access and overall patient experience. Further, Starseed recently collaborated with patients to develop the Starseed 2.0 system, a more accurate method for determining cannabinoid profiles - 1 star for high CBD, 2 stars for balanced, and 3 stars for high THC.
“As a team of health care professionals providing medical cannabis guidance, we are committed to offering medical pathways and patient-centric services through technology, innovation, and education to ensure safe and effective use,' said Sara Ryan, Director of Medical Education, Starseed Medicinal.“Currently, opioids are being overused despite their well-known harm, while patients are often conflicted about safe treatment options. Medical cannabis could be considered an alternative, providing patients with a novel therapeutic option. Empowering patients and health care practitioners with education and resource tools for alternate treatments will help us close this knowledge gap as more people add medical cannabis to their daily self-care regimes.”
Patients and their providers can access the virtual resource and education platform via the Starseed Blog and Product Guide , which is also accessible to the cannabis community looking for expanded medical cannabis information. Starseed's comprehensive education and support services could connect visitors with healthcare professionals and/or provide best-in-class education resources keeping patients informed and up-to-date. Available information varies from cannabis news and research treatment options, to support channels.
Starseed's direct-to-patient medical marketplace currently offers over 45 products, including cannabis-infused soft chews, transdermal patches, compounds (balms), oils, capsules, vapes, and dried flower products, including a new high-THC cultivar reserve (15g). The Company recently announced it has partnered with Pineapple Express to provide same-day/next day delivery as an additional convenience to patients residing within select areas in Ontario. For more information, visit Starseed's website here .
Visit Entourage's website here to access the latest Company updates.
About Entourage Health Corp.
Entourage Health Corp. is the publicly traded parent company of Entourage Brands Corp. (formerly WeedMD RX Inc.) and CannTx Life Sciences Inc., licence holders producing and distributing cannabis products for both the medical and adult-use markets. The Company owns and operates a state-of-the-art hybrid greenhouse and processing facility located on 158-acres in Strathroy, ON; a fully licensed 26,000 sq. ft. Aylmer, ON processing facility, specializing in cannabis extraction; and a micropropagation, tissue culture and genetics centre-of-excellence in Guelph, Ontario. With its Starseed Medicinal medical-centric brand, Entourage has expanded its multi-channeled distribution strategy. Starseed's industry-first, exclusive partnership with LiUNA, the largest construction union in Canada, along with employers and union groups complements Entourage's direct sales to medical patients. Entourage's elite adult-use product portfolio includes Color Cannabis, Saturday Cannabis and Royal City Cannabis Co.– sold across eight provincial distribution agencies. The Company also maintains strategic relationships in the seniors' market and supply agreements with Shoppers Drug Mart. It is the exclusive Canadian producer and distributor of award-winning U.S.-based wellness brand Mary's Medicinals sold in both medical and adult-use channels. Under a collaboration with The Boston Beer Company subsidiary, Entourage is also the exclusive distributor of cannabis-infused beverages 'TeaPot' in Canada, expected to launch in 2022.
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Forward Looking Information This press release contains 'forward-looking information' within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities legislation which are based upon Entourage's current internal expectations, estimates, projections, assumptions and beliefs and views of future events. Forward-looking information can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as 'expect', 'likely', 'may', 'will', 'should', 'intend', 'anticipate', 'potential', 'proposed', 'estimate' and other similar words, including negative and grammatical variations thereof, or statements that certain events or conditions 'may', 'would' or 'will' happen, or by discussions of strategy.
The forward-looking information in this news release is based upon the expectations, estimates, projections, assumptions and views of future events which management believes to be reasonable in the circumstances. Forward-looking information includes estimates, plans, expectations, opinions, forecasts, projections, targets, guidance or other statements that are not statements of fact. Forward-looking information necessarily involve known and unknown risks, including, without limitation, risks associated with general economic conditions; adverse industry events; loss of markets; future legislative and regulatory developments; inability to access sufficient capital from internal and external sources, and/or inability to access sufficient capital on favourable terms; the cannabis industry in Canada generally; the ability of Entourage to implement its business strategies; the COVID-19 pandemic; competition; crop failure; and other risks.
Any forward-looking information speaks only as of the date on which it is made, and, except as required by law, Entourage does not undertake any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking information, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. New factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for Entourage to predict all such factors. When considering this forward-looking information, readers should keep in mind the risk factors and other cautionary statements in Entourage's disclosure documents filed with the applicable Canadian securities regulatory authorities on SEDAR at . The risk factors and other factors noted in the disclosure documents could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those described in any forward-looking information.
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Does being insured curb the complexities of access to quality and affordable health care coverage? Not according to a new survey from Impact Research and Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of Consumers for Quality Care (CQC).
The nationwide poll of 1,206 registered voters revealed that Americans are concerned about high out-of-pocket health care costs, pervasive medical debt and the lack of access to covered mental health care.
The challenge: According to 45% of respondents, skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs are the top issue people face with today’s health care system — a factor that 63% of voters say significantly contributes to the strain of increased inflation.
Americans have to pick and choose their priorities to financially manage the impacts of inflation. Plus, out-of-pocket costs are steadily increasing, which 72% of voters agree are a product of insurance companies nickel-and-diming them.
Key numbers: When asked to rank their financial concerns, 72% of respondents listed health care as their top priority, right after the 77% who answered food and 79% who are more concerned about affording gas and energy costs.
More info: Crippling medical debt is a towering concern for millions of Americans, including 53% of voters who say medical bills have seriously affected their finances or those of someone close to them.
The financial burden forces many to cut back on essential needs, rack up credit card debt or file for bankruptcy. CQC’s poll shows that:
The added difficulty of finding mental health care creates an even wider gap in people’s critical needs getting met.
Key numbers: 88% of respondents agree that it’s more important now than ever for insurance policies to include mental health coverage to keep mental health care affordable — yet, 57% can’t find providers who are affordable or accepted by their insurance, especially those with private insurers.
The solution: Across party lines, 77% of voters agree the federal government should ensure access to affordable, quality care for all Americans.
To help policymakers understand and address these consumers' concerns, CQC developed a 2022 Negotiator’s Guide To Health Care Reform.
Why it’s important: 69% of all respondents say they’re more likely to support a political candidate who makes reducing health care costs their top priority.
Reducing costs is politically advantageous for candidates, but it will also support Americans in their fight to receive the care they need.
Learn more about this CQC survey and its findings.