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Planned Parenthood boards vote to merge 26 clinics

By Christine McCarthy

WACO- Regional Planned Parenthood boards in North Texas, Waco and Austin unanimously voted to merge 26 clinics into one Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas on Wednesday.

Waco's Planned Parenthood initiated talks about the merger 12 to 18 months ago, and, although the decision wasn't based on expected funding cuts, Director of Community Affairs, Felicia Goodman, said the merger will help during a financially difficult time.

"It really was a way to think strategically into the future, 'How can we best provide care for the patients that we see? And how can we provide more care to more patients in the most cost-efficient way?'" Goodman said, insisting patients' services will not be affected by the merger.

All 26 locations will remain open, but Goodman and other directors said operating as one will secure a stronger future for patients and allow more clients to pour in. The non-profit now expects to serve more than 120,000 clients in 2013. 

While the merger will at first cost more, the future savings are big. A new electronic health record system will cover all 26 clinics. Consolidating work, like billing and back-office functions, without slashing jobs, will save precious dollars.

"With all of the funding cuts to family planning and with the women's health program ending, it's really important, especially in Waco, it's important that we're here for our patients no matter what," Goodman said, referring to the recent loss of state and federal funding for the Medicaid Women's Health Program.

All three regions gathered at separate meetings on Wednesday at noon. It took all of them 15 minutes to vote yes to the merger.

"In all areas of Texas that are involved, it just means that Planned Parenthood's going to be bigger and better and stronger," Goodman said.

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