FORT DODGE - Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced Thursday that it will close its Fort Dodge center effective Dec. 12.
Fort Dodge is one of four health centers the organization will close on that date. It will also close the Ankeny, Mount Pleasant and Washington facilities.
"Fewer than 10 percent of our Iowa patients visit the Ankeny, Fort Dodge, Mount Pleasant and Washington health centers," Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Board Chair Bob Shaw said in a written statement announcing the closures. "These centers are open very limited hours, causing many patients to schedule a more convenient appointment at a health center nearby. Re-organizing our health centers allows us to provide more direct services and expanded clinic hours at our other health centers."
Planned Parenthood declined a request for specific numbers.
In Fort Dodge, the Planned Parenthood Center at 30 N. 27th St. is open three days a week, plus every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. A teen clinic is offered on the first, third and fifth Wednesday of each month. Its services include general health care for men and women and HIV testing, as well as pregnancy testing. birth control and abortion referral.
Kari Prescott, director of the Webster County Health Department and Environmental Health, said she learned of the closing Thursday.
"I just found out today," Prescott said in a phone conversation.
Later, she elaborated in an email, "Our agency has been contacted by a representative from the Family Planning Council of Iowa to discuss options for services in our area. We will be discussing, within the next week, opportunities with our community partners and public health partners in this service area on how to fill this void.
"A meeting is planned in December to meet with Family Planning representatives to discuss how public health and our partners can fill this gap in our area."
In addition to closing the four Iowa centers, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is also discontinuing its family practice services, according to its announcement Thursday.
The Fort Dodge center services a region, so news of the closing caused concern outside Webster County.
"Hamilton County Public Health is sad to see the closure of Planned Parenthood Fort Dodge as a safety net provider for women's health," Shelby Kroona, administrator, said in a statement Thursday. "Transportation to the Fort Dodge office was an issue for many residents in Hamilton County, so transportation to the Ames, Sioux City or Des Moines Planned Parenthood office will be a burden (for) many of our residents."
Kroona said Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had applied to become Hamilton County Public Health's health care navigator, a role necessitated by the advent of the Affordable Care Act.
"Planned Parenthood of the Heartland was a navigator and application assistant for our area," Kroona said. "You still can access assistance for their web page, however some people would prefer to sit down and have a person assist them with the application process."
Shelby Cloke, public relations manager for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said the navigator grant will be in effect, despite the closing of the Fort Dodge center.
"The navigator will still work in the community helping to provide information, answer questions and educate Iowans about the Affordable Care Act," she said.
Planned Parenthood received 45 percent of its national revenue from government health services grants and reimbursements, according to its 2011-2012 annual report. Two other main 2011-2012 funding sources are nongovernment health services, 26 percent, and private contributions and bequests, 26 percent. These are the most recent statistics publicly available.
In the winter of 2012, news that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation had adopted rules that would deprive Planned Parenthood centers of its breast health grants sent a ripple through the national organization, according to a message from Cecilia Boone, Planned Parenthood Federation of America chair, and Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president, published in the organization's 2011-2012 annual report.
"The public reacted to the news with dismay and outrage," the pair wrote. "Thousands of people across America took to the internet to express their support for Planned Parenthood. An outpouring of financial support enabled Planned Parenthood Federation of America to create a new Breast Health Fund, which has been used to expand Planned Parenthood health centers' breast health services, including diagnostics, staff training, and patient education."
They added, "Through it all, Planned Parenthood health centers around the country continued to provide high-quality, affordable, essential health care to women and families, making sure that every woman no matter where she lives or how much money she has can get the health care services she needs."