CAPITAL REGION — The Planned Parenthood affiliate headquartered in Schenectady and four others are proposing to merge into a single entity based in New York City.
The move is intended to reduce administrative costs, increase bargaining power and expand patient care. The five entities need to secure multiple internal and external approvals but hope to complete the merger in 2020.
The plan would unite five of New York state’s nine Planned Parenthood affiliates and would serve half the state’s counties and 65 percent of its population.
The Capital Region component is Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson, which is based in Schenectady, has about 160 employees and operates 10 health centers from Glens Falls to Utica to Cobleskill.
Its health care professionals saw 20,305 people in about 40,000 visits in 2018. Also last year, its victims advocacy services program served 1,400 clients, including 665 through the crisis hotlines it operates around the clock.
“The goal here is to better serve our patients,” said Emma Corbett, vice president of marketing and communications at Mohawk Hudson.
This would be accomplished through reductions in the administrative workforce, through a unified medical records system and through gaining the ability as a single larger entity to negotiate better financial arrangements than the five affiliates would be able to achieve on their own, Corbett said.
Similar mergers and affiliations have been underway elsewhere in the healthcare industry for years for similar reasons; only two hospitals in the greater Capital Region remain independent entities, for example.
Joining Mohawk Hudson in the partnership would be the Planned Parenthood affiliates of New York City, Mid-Hudson Valley, Nassau County and Southern Finger Lakes. The surviving legal entity would be Planned Parenthood of New York City, which would be renamed Planned Parenthood of Greater New York and operate 28 health centers that see patients about 200,000 times a year.
Planned Parenthood of New York City submitted a request to the state Department of Health on Friday for regulatory approval of the proposal.
“Our hope would be that ... we could be in operation in 2020,” Corbett said.
The other Planned Parenthood affiliate serving the Capital Region — Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood — opted not to join the partnership but said via email that it will continue to work cooperatively with the other affiliates. “Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood (serving Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties) decided not to be part of the merger at this time because we feel we are in a better position to serve our communities with our current model," the affiliate said. "We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the new affiliate.”
The changes brought by the merger should not be noticeable to patients, Corbett said. Some administrative positions duplicated among the affiliates would likely be eliminated, she said, but the entire administrative structure would not necessarily be consolidated to New York City.
The guiding goal of the merger is to continue to provide more and better health care for patients who need it, Corbett said, and to be accessible to less-populated areas with fewer health care facilities. Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson in 2018 added primary care services at all 10 of its health centers, and the merged entity hopes to expand use of telemedicine services.
The proposed merger comes as Planned Parenthood faces challenges nationwide — the organization has long been a lightning rod because one of the services it provides is abortion. Its more than 600 health centers have been the target of protests, prayer vigils and violence.
“The current administration and the political environment is certainly arduous for all medical providers, especially for those that provide reproductive care as Planned Parenthood does,” Corbett said.
“We’re fortunate here to have the pro-choice majority,” she said of the New York Legislature. “The climate that some of our fellow Americans are dealing with in other states is certainly alarming.”
By one count, more than 300 pieces of legislation that would restrict abortion were introduced in state legislatures nationwide in the first quarter of 2019 alone. Particularly strong measures in states such as Alabama, Georgia, Iowa and Kentucky, some of which approach a de facto ban on abortion, have been or are likely to be subject to court battles.
Laura McQuade, current president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, will assume leadership of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York if the merger is completed.
She said via an emailed statement: “As the new Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, with more resources, greater reach, and renewed purpose, we will deliver more on our mission than ever before."
There currently are 53 locally administered Planned Parenthood nationwide.