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Planned Parenthood to halt pediatric services

Planned Parenthood of Western New York is discontinuing the services of its staff pediatrician in Niagara County, effective at the end of April.

The move entails the closure of Planned Parenthood's satellite office on Heritage Court in Lockport.

Chief Executive Officer Karen J. Nelson said letters were mailed this week to about 3,800 people whose children have used the services of Dr. Edward Brown in the past three years in Niagara Falls or Lockport.

The letters informed the parents that Brown will be working for the Community Health Center of Niagara in Niagara Falls as of May 2.

"We're going to work to transition our pediatric clients over there if they want to go," Nelson said. "The patients have the opportunity to follow the doctor they love."

But the letters also listed the names of other pediatricians who accept Medicaid.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Amy White said the Community Health Center is on the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center campus on 10th Street in the Falls, in the building formerly known as the Hamilton B. Mizer Primary Care Center.

The decision to spin off the services of Brown, who has been with Planned Parenthood since it inaugurated pediatric service in 1990, was in part financial.

White said Planned Parenthood had been losing about $300,000 a year on pediatric services.

Nelson said, "The board [of directors] made a decision in our strategic planning last year to concentrate on our core service mix and our core competencies."

Planned Parenthood traditionally concentrates on reproductive health issues. It started to offer pediatrics in Niagara County because of a lack of pediatricians who accepted Medicaid, White said.

Planned Parenthood does not offer pediatric care anywhere else in Western New York.

The service was begun when Planned Parenthood of Niagara County was a separate organization. It has since been merged into the regional entity.

White said besides Brown, eight other staff members were to lose their jobs, although since the staff belongs to the Nurses United union, some may retain employment because of "bumping rights" in the union contract.

The Community Health Center of Niagara opened in October as a satellite of the Community Health Center of Buffalo. White said these centers were created as part of the federal health care reform law, and they have access to greater levels of Medicaid reimbursement than Planned Parenthood was eligible to receive.

Nelson said of the 3,800 letters mailed this week, about 500 were sent to Lockport addresses.

Planned Parenthood continues to operate locations on Portage Road in Niagara Falls and Webster Street in North Tonawanda, offering reproductive health care, sexually transmitted disease testing, contraceptives and abortions using the RU-486 pill.

It also offers surgical abortions at a center on Williams Road in Wheatfield. White said the agency performed about 1,200 abortions in 2009.

Its Erie County locations are in Buffalo and West Seneca.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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