Planned Parenthood to open new location in January

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And the crowd goes wild. Clker-Free-Vector-Images via pixabay and GDj via pixabay manipulated by Lee Lim

Back by popular demand 

Much to many people’s dismay, Planned Parenthood Regina had to close their location last May. Throughout the years, Planned Parenthood has been a presence not only in the broader Regina community, but also on campus. Fortunately, the local Planned Parenthood has found a new location on Albert Street that is slated to open in January 2023. I sat down with the Risa Payant, the executive director of Planned Parenthood, to talk about the role Planned Parenthood has in the community and the journey to open a new location.  

To start, in a broad sense, what does Planned Parenthood do for the Regina community? 

Our primary focus at Planned Parenthood is making sure that people in Regina and surrounding area, especially youth and other vulnerable populations, can take control of their sexual and reproductive health. So that means offering everything from STI tests to contraception counseling, to PAP tests, and IUD inserts, and pregnancy options counseling, medical terminations. Just anything that folks might need to access, we’re going to help them out.   

How does Planned Parenthood impact the university community? 

Early sexual health intervention can start in high school and university. Being on site and having a good presence at the university is definitely important. However, over the past six months, not just our location has changed, but we also have lost significant funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). It was the education staff that were going into the university to provide service. Unfortunately, they were supported through the PHAC.  

In a previous CBC article, it was mentioned that there are funding concerns, considerably amplified from the pandemic. From your perspective as a sexual health non-profit partially funded by the province, are there any changes you would like to see? 

Because we work outside of a fee-for-service model, it needs to be recognized that Planned Parenthood is a non-profit. We have a lot of requirements that clinics might not have, where we’re really kind of unique in the sector in being both a medical clinic and a nonprofit organization. Currently, our allocations from the Ministry of Health and Saskatchewan Health Authority cover only about 40 per cent of what it takes to run a barebones clinic. Which includes having one nurse practitioner, one receptionist, one registered nurse, and then myself as the executive director. Our education program is currently not funded by the province at all. I think it’s safe to say that education is the biggest upstream solution to dealing with some of these sexual and reproductive health concerns. 

Have you seen more cases of people unable to get the healthcare they need since your last location had to close? 

Absolutely, we used to run a wait list, and unfortunately that wait list was getting to be months and months long. We modified just before we closed. At the last Monday of the month we’d open up appointments for the coming month. Sometimes those appointments would fill within a matter of hours. Unfortunately, what that meant is that if someone needs emergency care, if they need to seek medical termination, emergency contraception, even just people who don’t realize their contraceptive prescription is running out or that they’re due for an IUD swap, it really can be frustrating but we just don’t have the capacity to support everyone in Regina needing that kind of care. It’s overall a really frustrating system for everyone involved. There’s much, much more need than there is capacity to serve currently across the healthcare sector in our province. 

What kind of difficulties has the organization had in finding a new space? 

The biggest thing is that typically it does take four to six months to secure commercial space. Unfortunately for us, we got really close with a couple of places, and in the end, plans ended up falling through because of landlords who are really interested in dictating aspects of our mandate. Ultimately, we always want to be serving the community. We also wanted to make sure that our new location was central, pedestrian accessible, accessible via transit. 

Planned Parenthood has received a lot of negative coverage in the USA from the anti-abortion lobby, and of course there are a few lobby groups in Canada. Has that animus carried north of the border and, if so, how has it affected your operations?  

Because of all the media in the United States, there’s a lot of assumptions about what we offer. Specifically, we hear a lot that if you come to Planned Parenthood, we’re going to force you to get an abortion. We really are just looking to make sure that people have access to appropriate sexual and reproductive healthcare, whatever that means for them.  

The climate in Saskatchewan is not as far away from our neighbors in the south as people think. There are massive barriers to accessing terminations here in our province. Beyond access to abortion, there are issues around the way that bodily autonomy is being affected, you have to be thinking of the intersection between trans healthcare rights, and abortion access, and medical racism. They’re all these ways that different individuals are being denied access to taking agency over their healthcare. 

On a day-to-day level, the one thing we do deal with is trolls on social media, and I personally get a lot of emails. I’d say at least two or three a week of people making all sorts of anti-choice statements, and that can be really discouraging. I always worry that if I’m not going to catch those things, especially when they’re in social media fast enough, that someone who comes to our page looking for stigma-free education is going to see these comments from these trolls and be scared away. 

If people are concerned about sexual health, how can they help and get involved? 

We’re always short of funds, and the more money we get from the community, the better we are able to serve that community. Beyond that, we really encourage you to follow us on social media, share our posts, access our services.   

Is there any last thing you’d like people to know? 

I’d really love folks to know about our new fall pop-up clinics. We really want to see more people out, especially for things like STI testing the best thing to do is come to us, get tested, and we’ll help you get treated, and then you’re keeping yourself and anyone else that you encounter safe. 

If you want to access services, Planned Parenthood can be found online at plannedparenthoodregina.com and posts pop-up clinic schedules every week on their Facebook and Instagram accounts.  

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