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Family Planning adapts as Covid evolves

Ruby Turnbull
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Sexual and reproductive health.   Population matters

With lockdowns and staff off sick and isolating, Family Planning has had to change the way they operate their service.

Rose Stewart, the national nursing advisor for Family Planning, says they have been continually trying to make sure people get adequate support during Covid times.  

“It's been a massive challenge for everyone, but I think we have been quite standout in terms of continuing to offer services. In the very first lockdown we weren’t identified as essential, so we had to set up online systems.” 

She says lately they have been able to do about 60 percent of their volume by telephone.  

“We have had sickness, with staff off sick and isolating, therefore that reduces the number of services we can do.

"As it is anyway, the demand exceeds the funding we have to provide services. We have to employ more staff in the clinics, and we can only do what we can with the money we have.”  

Over the course of Covid, they developed a quick STI process where people who were asymptomatic could get sent an at-home test which they dropped to the laboratories. 


The IUD - is it right for me?

Despite the adaptions that have been made, Stewart admits there are still waiting times because of the staff shortage, and the catch-up since the first lockdown where they couldn’t do any face-to-face services like IUD insertions. 

The wait times for IUD insertions at the moment is around a month, which puts added risks on people who can't afford to get one at the doctors. 

Christchurch resident Hannah Powell says she had to deal with long waiting times. 

“I went to book an IUD insertion and the wait time was a couple of months, but I knew this already because a friend of mine said to book with plenty of time ahead. When I had to reschedule my appointment, it was another couple of months down the line to get it - so all up I was waiting for about four months to get the IUD." 

Powell says she couldn't afford to get the insertion done at the doctors, and she also wasn't enrolled with a GP because she had just moved to Christchurch. 

“As much as family planning is such a helpful service for women, it needs more funding so that we don’t have to wait." 

Stewart says they just had a national clinical meeting, to talk about how they can make IUD insertions a smoother process. 

"It's complicated, because if people have pregnancy risks we can’t put a IUD in. We are talking about having more information on our website, and then having people book just one appointment rather the current pre-insertion and insertion appointments it takes at the moment," says Stewart. 

"We are still stuck with the number of clinicians we have, and the demand."  

In General Practice, more people are learning to insert IUDs but they have a whole different pricing structure.