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Planned Parenthood expands to south

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Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa is building a new clinic on Des Moines’ South Side to handle its increasing patient load and relieve the burden on other facilities.

If all goes according to plan, the new Des Moines South Center will open its doors in May. The clinic will include a more spacious waiting room, state-of-the-art surgical facilities and a sexual assault exam unit. To be located on Army Post Road across from Southridge Mall, it won’t be far from its current location at 500 Army Post Road, Suite 17.

A few years ago, Planned Parenthood examined all of its local facilities to ensure that each offered the proper level of medical care. They found that its Des Moines South Center was a bit outdated –– it opened in 1988 –– and that the South Side was growing. Planned Parenthood was seeing 15 to 20 percent more patients on the South Side. Then the organization began looking at the ZIP codes of the patients at all its Des Moines facilities.

“The numbers at all centers of patients from the South Side were up,” said Melissa Grant, senior director of health services. “We suspect they were going to other clinics because it was difficult to get appointments at the South Center. The new clinic will help people get seen where they live.”

The new South Center has a secondary purpose. Several procedures will be moved there from other Planned Parenthood offices, including abortions, colposcopies, prenatal care, sexual assault exams and vasectomies. This will free up the other clinics to focus on providing contraceptives, annual exams and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. The Central Center hopes to add prenatal care.

The Planned Parenthood leaders working on the new South Center have put a lot of thought into how to create the best facility possible while being “good stewards” financially. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization. It sets standard prices for its services, and patients can use insurance, pay the fees in their entirety or arrange for a discounted charge based on their income. Some of Planned Parenthood’s funding is provided by the government, some by patient payments and much by donations. Some women whose income level entitles them to free services give donations nonetheless, and such contributions added up to $575,000 last year.

“I am proud to serve those women,” said Penny Dickey, vice president of health services and education. “We get a broad range here. They deserve the best facilities and the best care. All of them.”

Toward that end, the new clinic will have a larger waiting room so that patients “don’t have to sit too close to their neighbor,” Grant said. It will also feature a large area to display periodicals and health pamphlets so bashful patients can get information without having to ask. The room will contain more televisions so visitors will have more choice in what to watch. The décor was created to be beautiful, but not overly feminine, because Planned Parenthood serves men, as well as women. The sexual assault exam unit will have a separate entrance to give survivors greater privacy. There will also be a counseling office and state-of-the-art medical equipment.

“Many women choose Planned Parenthood because they want to be able to get an appointment on the spur of the moment,” Grant said, noting that women often have to schedule gynecologist appointments six months in advance. “Others have no insurance. Whatever the reason, they shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality or comfort. We hope our new clinic will be of the same quality or better than a private physician or hospital.”

According to Dickey, the demographics of Planned Parenthood’s patients are shifting. Women are turning to the organization for “midlife care,” or services for women in their 40s and older who are entering menopause.

“An increasing number of women my age are coming back to Planned Parenthood,” Dickey said. “They weren’t satisfied with the care they got elsewhere. Maybe they left because their income increased and they got insurance, so they wanted to free up appointments for those who really needed them, but patients with insurance help us cover those who can’t pay.”

There are more changes on the horizon for Planned Parenthood. “Over the next couple of years, we’ll look at renovation here, as well,” Grant said. “But for right now we’re focusing on the South Side.”

“Planned Parenthood has been in Iowa for 70 years, and we plan to be here far into the future,” Dickey said.  

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