Alaska: Sitka Planned Parenthood Clinic to Downsize

Funding cutbacks are forcing the Planned Parenthood health center on Lake Street in Sitka to close at the end of January and reopen at another site in February, according to agency officials. The new location has not yet been selected, and it will not be staffed by a certified nurse practitioner, only a center employee. Instead, patients there will be able to speak with a CNP via secure video conference, officials said.

Sitka's current part-time clinic sees about 270 patients annually. Due to difficulty finding CNPs to staff the office, telemedicine has been in use there for at least the last year, said Clover Simon, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson in Alaska.

At the new site, some reproductive services like Pap testing will not be offered, and STD testing could be reduced. Which STD screenings are offered will depend on whether the clinic staffer is certified to draw blood. Tests for infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, which require only a urine sample, will continue, said Simon.

"There will definitely be less access for some women. We're going to try as hard as we can to fill that gap, but the reality is it's going to cause hardship for some women," Simon said.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest (PPGNW), which operates facilities in Alaska, Idaho and Washington, is wrestling with state and federal budget cuts. Three smaller clinics in Washington will close, said Seattle-based spokesperson Kristen Glundberg-Prossor.

However, "This restructuring is an opportunity for Sitka to be the pilot for a new and more efficient care delivery model for PPGNW rural service areas," officials said. "Our hope is that this model will enable PPGNW to reach many new patients through Alaska and other remote areas of the great Northwest."