The front of the 12 acre Structure House campus on Pickett Road in Durham on February 1, 2021.

The front of the 12 acre Structure House campus on Pickett Road in Durham on February 1, 2021.

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On the same day, Durham County stopped making appointments for COVID-19 recordings due to the low supply. A Durham weight loss center sent alumni an email with 40 vaccinations for people paying thousands of dollars to stay for a month.

The Durham County Department of Public Health qualified Structure house Katie Rickel, General Manager, wrote an email to alumni with the subject “COVID Vaccines Available” about Pickett Road as a residential facility in the community, giving her vaccine appointments.

“Any Structure House attendee or family support is eligible, but you must be on campus for four weeks between February 21 and March 21 to qualify as a” living community resident. ” it in the email.

The vaccinations for residents of the structural house will be available, depending on availability, at the health department, “about 15 minutes from the center”.

In an email, Health Department spokeswoman Alecia Smith confirmed that the Department had given 40 of its doses to Structure House. The center is an inpatient treatment facility, she wrote, and is thus part of the state prioritization of Group 1 for long-term care facilities.

According to its website, Structure House offers packages for stays of days or weeks on its 12 acre campus family support Option for someone to accompany the participant. The residents live in apartments, but can gather for meals, exercise, group lessons or therapy.

“I explained what Structure House was and they approved it,” Rickel said.

The TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz described Structure House as “one of the best weight loss centers in the country”. on a 2011 show It featured a £ 700 woman seeking help there.

Health authorities, hospitals and other providers are offering the COVID-19 vaccine to all for free, as the recordings have already been purchased by the federal government. Some providers may ask people to bring insurance cards as providers may charge insurance companies an administration fee as long as there is no cost to the patient.

On Thursday, the day Structure House emailed alumni, The district health department announced in a press release that this was no longer the case made vaccination appointments due to a limited offer. It’s a similar situation in North Carolina and across the country, where there aren’t enough vaccines to get shots to anyone who wants them.

“[T]The unfortunate reality is that demand far exceeds supply, ”Durham County’s health director Rod Jenkins said in the press release.

Equity issues raised

Aidil Ortiz, an East Durham community attorney, said it was unfair for Structure House to use its medical name to jump in front of the elderly and frontline workers.

“It just stinks of privilege and money to have something that so many people are waiting for,” said Ortiz, who is also co-organizer of Black Body Health The Podcast, sponsored by the Center for Black Health and Justice in Durham.

Ortiz also has concerns that the center is using vaccines to advertise as other businesses are shutting down and closing.

“It just sounds so gross and opportunistic at a time when so many people are suffering,” she said.

Structure House’s email to alumni raises questions about linking paid services to the vaccine. said Arthur Caplan, Director of the Department of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.

“In a plague, that’s repulsive marketing,” said Caplan. “It rewards the rich. It rewards people who have any connection with this company.

The News & Observer asked Rickel if county officials know that people will have to pay for the weight loss center’s services in order to get access to the vaccine.

“I made it clear what Structure House is,” said Rickel.

Structure House customers are at high risk as they are overweight and often have other health issues.

Even so, North Carolina guidelines state that people outside of the state’s first two vaccine groups who suffer from conditions that are at high risk for COVID-19, including obesity, will not be eligible for the vaccine until Group 4.

Group 1 includes healthcare workers, as well as caregivers and residents, while Group 2 includes people aged 65 and over. The Department of Health refers to Structure House as a Group 1 facility because it provides health-related services in residential areas.

Rickel declined to answer questions about fees and the number of people who received the email. Your legal team would answer any further questions.

ON 2009 Travel + Leisure Article and a 2014 Elle Column It was billed at around $ 2,500 per week, according to Structure House. Structure House’s website: a Healthy escape package at “a special discounted weekly rate of just $ 1,995”.

Importance of communication

Smith of the Durham County Health Department said program costs were not part of the discussion about vaccination allocation.

“As an inpatient medical treatment program, vaccination appointments will be established for those currently residing and participating in the program, as per NC DHHS guidelines,” she wrote.

Health Department officials reached out to Structure House about the alumni email, Smith said.

“The purpose of it [email] Communicate with alumni, who often return to the facility for at least four weeks as part of ongoing treatment, to explain the COVID safety measures being taken by the facility, “wrote Smith. “We will keep in contact with this facility and other inpatient treatment facilities. All recognize the importance of clear communication regarding vaccines and apologize for any confusion or concern.”

The N&O forwarded Structure House’s email correspondence to the NC Attorney General and asked if there were any concerns.

“Our office is looking closely,” replied spokeswoman Laura Brewer.

Gina Upchurch is the managing director of Senior pharmacist, a Durham organization that promotes healthy living for seniors.

She has been trying to get her parents’ vaccination dates for three weeks. It met with success on Friday after Rockingham County announced online and phone registration.

“I kept refreshing myself, refreshing myself,” Upchurch said. “In the meantime, I pressed the phone number of her phone number and it kept saying, ‘All circuits are busy.'”

She finally got an appointment for her father, who recently had a stroke, and then one for her mother.

It was “like the lottery,” she said.

Upchurch said she understands the health department that offers Structure House vaccines because people live in confined spaces, but it seems inappropriate to lure alumni with the prospect of a vaccine.

She also understands how a company with access to the vaccine would take care of its customers, she said.

“Everyone tries to protect the people they know who are important to them or with whom they are related,” she said.

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