Minnesota Abortion Clinics, Already Understaffed, Aggressively Recruiting More Staff | Nation

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The new abortion landscape means clinics in Minnesota are already seeing more patients and working to recruit more staff.

Whole Woman’s Health (WWH), which operates an abortion clinic in Bloomington, had four facilities in Texas that abruptly closed after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month. Around 60 workers were displaced.

Now the Bloomington clinic is rushing to move several of its doctors from Texas to Minnesota. A doctor flew out on Wednesday to visit the Twin Cities. Another is coming next week.

If all goes well, the extra help – from already highly trained personnel – can’t come soon enough.

“Our biggest issue right now is the shortage of doctors,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive. “Now that Roe has fallen, people [are] coming here from Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana and Mississippi.”

But Minnesota has only eight abortion clinics. Already, staffing shortages have caused appointment cancellations and waiting lists and forced more patients to travel greater distances to get timely abortions, clinic providers said.

In some cases, the delays pushed women into their second trimester, leaving fewer options.

“It’s scary,” said Laurie Casey, executive director of WE Health, a Duluth clinic that performed 462 medical and surgical abortions last year. Demand is now expected to increase by 25%. “It’s heartbreaking. Some of the women who call us are in tears.”

WE Health typically sees patients one day a week, but with the increase in calls for help, that’s added half a day, Casey said.

“There’s an 80% chance we’ll add another day,” provided she can find new doctors, Casey said. WE Health now uses three doctors who work on their days off from other jobs. Casey is afraid they will run out.

More and more patients are calling from the Twin Cities, where clinics are overbooked due to the new wave of out-of-state patients.

The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, which will soon move to Moorhead, Minn., has also seen an increase in patients from the Twin Cities.

Planned Parenthood North Central States, Minnesota’s largest abortion provider, said it was also seeing an increase, spokeswoman Emily Bisek said.

“We need everyone on deck,” she said.

Planned Parenthood performed 7,144 procedures in Minnesota last year and expects cases to rise 25% as ‘trigger law’ abortion bans take hold in Wisconsin, Dakota North, Texas and elsewhere.

Demand from out-of-state patients is putting clinics here in a bind.

“It can take years to hire a full-time doctor who is willing and able and located in the state where we need to hire,” Bisek said. “It has historically been very difficult to hire abortion doctors in our region. The greatest need is in health centers.”

WWH in Bloomington predicts demand could grow to 4,000 per year, up from 1,026 last year, Miller said. To handle the load, the nonprofit organization would need at least 10 additional staff, two additional full-time doctors. The budget should increase by $500,000.

The situation “drives me crazy,” Miller said. “I have neither the time nor the space to express my emotions because I have 200 employees and thousands of patents to think about.”

Red River, North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, will move to Moorhead in two weeks. Roe’s repeal triggered a statewide abortion ban in North Dakota that, while being challenged in court, is set to go into effect on July 28.

A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $880,000 for the move and the clinic took out a bank loan to cover a down payment for a new building, chief executive Tammi Kromenaker said.

In Red River, seven part-time nurses and three doctors now perform 28 abortions a week, up from 20 previously. Red River could double its services to two days a week – if it can recruit more doctors.

Meanwhile, Red River plans to offer virtual telehealth appointments for medical abortions for the first time, which do not require a clinic visit. The service is prohibited in North Dakota.

It would “take some of the pressure off,” Kromenaker said.

Two-year-old Dr. Julie Amaon, executive director of Just the Pill telehealth abortion clinic, recently hired three clinicians in addition to herself.

Now the four of them can write prescriptions and send pills to patients who live or can travel to Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming.

“In less than four days after the Roe decision, Just the Pill received over 260 online dating requests. That’s up from the usual 20 to 25 a day,” she said. “In Minnesota, there is a great need for more facilities – hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics – that can provide care.”

There are doctors who want to provide abortion care but can’t because their employers don’t allow it, or they work at select clinics that can’t perform the procedure due to state laws. , she said.

Minnesota law only allows doctors to perform abortions (including prescribing abortion pills). The Maryland legislature recently changed its law to now allow nurse practitioners to also perform abortions. In 2019, the nonprofit group Our Justice, which helps low-income women with abortion costs, and its lawyers at Gender Justice sued Minnesota in Ramsey County District Court to force it to remove restrictions on practitioners. A decision is expected by December.

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