Friday, July 27, 2007

Californians without pre-natal care

Wednesday, July 27 I went to the National Coucil of Jewish Women's building on Fairfax to hear speakers from Planned Parenthood speak. What was the most astounding to learn was 100,000 Californians aren't getting medical care because state in California Medi-Cal reimbursement for Planned Parenthood's medical services haven't been raised in twenty years.

Planned Parenthood clinics provide pre-natal care, HIV screening, sexually transmitted disease screening, cervical cancer screening, breast cancer screening, and other preventive heath care. These services are being curtailed. With too little funding, Planned Parenthood affiliates are forced to lay-off clinic staff; close a clinic such as Six Rivers; or are unable to attract doctors and nurses in many clinics. The San Francisco affiliate has 16 positions open due to lack of funding.

One tragic result they say is "all pre-natal services at our affiliates have been either curtailed, suspended, or eliminated." That means thousands of women in California have lost pre-natal care, exposing them to increase risk in pregnancy for both themselves and their babies.

Without staff, the clinics are forced to turn away people: in San Diego and Riverside Counties, 4600 patients turned away every month; in Santa Barbara, 2,600 patients turned away monthly; 1,000 monthly in Orange County. Nearly all of their clinics are turning away patients because they don't have the money to hire staff. They estimate that huge populations are without this kind of preventive health care. They estimate the clinics turn away 10,000 people/month or over 120,000 people/year. In Los Angeles, the clinics can only see 100,000 out of 700,000 people who need the services.

The result is a public health crisis in California. For example, in Orange and San Bernardino Counties where few people have access to clinic services, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases and teen birth is 22% higher than the overall state rate. The lack of funds is seriously eroding California's ability to reduce teen pregnancy and the public receives less protection sexually transmitted diseases.

The Planned Parenthood spokeswoman urges us to call Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez as the budget is still being decided in Sacramento. The Assembly has passed the budget but it is stalled in the Senate, with 15 Senate Republicans refuses to sign the budget unless they get more cuts. The Senate Republicans want to cut family planning, birth control and abortion from Medi-Cal services for teenagers who don't have parental consent--twice in the last few years Californians have defeated these parental consent propositions at the ballot box.

I called Fabian Nunez's office this morning, and had a short chat with the polite receptionist asking for the Assemblyman to support increase in Medi-Cal reimpursement rates for these kinds of preventive services that Planned Parenthood provides. I said I knew that the assembly had already passed the budget, but if the Senate can't pass it, the assemblypeople might be recalled, and then I hoped Nunez might act on this matter.

I think it might be a utter tragedy if a woman without pre-natal care might lose her baby or she or her baby might suffer greatly. Pre-natal care is a must. Screenings for diseases are also a public health necessity. After I made the call, I felt a great deal better.

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