From the Associated Press
WOODBURY, Minn. - Shoppers come to this upscale brick strip mall to pick up bouquets of cookies decorated like soccer players, or $39.99 bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape. Soon, they’ll be able to get emergency contraception, too.
Planned Parenthood wants to expand its services to more areas, and the organization’s leaders hope a plush fast-service clinic coming to this well-heeled St. Paul suburb next month will attract a new group of women who value convenience and can afford to pay full price.
It could be to reproductive health care what companies like MinuteClinic and RediClinic are to strep tests and ear infections. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit, but its leaders hope the new clinic will make enough money to help subsidize the rest of its operations.
Sister affiliates in states including California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Alabama have opened 87 express clinics in the last two years, and more are in the works. But Sarah Stoesz, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said this one will take the focus on the customer to a new level.
“Ours will have a very different look and feel,” Stoesz said. “We’re going to the women where they spend their lives, to help them solve some of the problems in their lives.”
The clinic will not perform abortions. Instead, lotions, essential oils and decorative carrying cases for pills and condoms will beckon shoppers inside, where they can also get oral contraceptives, pregnancy tests and screening for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea — all in about 20 minutes. If customers are interested, the clinic may add massages and other spa services later, spokeswoman Marta Coursey said.
The convenience factor — combined with profitable body products — could make it work, said Bruce Kelley, a senior consultant with Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a benefits consulting firm. He said fast clinics in pharmacies and supermarkets are catching on and will keep multiplying.
But it won’t take patients on subsidized health plans if they can’t pay out of pocket. Those customers can visit one of Planned Parenthood’s 22 existing clinics in Minnesota, which operate on a sliding scale based on the patient’s income.
Stoesz and her colleagues picked Woodbury because it has a large population of younger women, and the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic is about a 20-minutes drive away, not counting traffic. Woodbury’s 1999 median family income was nearly $85,000, well above national and state averages.
The Woodbury clinic is designed to be a cut above even the nicest Planned Parenthood express clinics — like the one in Somerville, Mass., near Boston and Harvard University. That one sits in a storefront across a plaza from a Starbucks, amid a shopping area near a major transit line.
“It’s very fresh, upbeat — people getting being responsible, doing their shopping, getting the Starbucks and going in and getting their contraception,” said Dianne Luby, who heads the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Luby said the clinic should break even within 18 months.
While no abortions will be done at the Woodbury clinic, although women will be referred for abortions, and profits might be used to subsidize abortions at other locations.