SEAFORD — Planned Parenthood of Delaware will open its first clinic in Sussex County since 2011 next month, the organization announced Wednesday.
The facility is in a medical complex at 800 Health Services Drive, just off U.S. 13 in Seaford. It will officially begin taking patients in September, with the date still to be announced.
Sussex County has been without a Planned Parenthood clinic since its Rehoboth Beach location closed a decade ago. The new office will be the organization’s fourth in Delaware, joining those in Wilmington, Newark and Dover.
“We’ve really had a desert in Sussex County, which has affected especially people with transportation concerns and people who have been underserved trying to get to our other clinics for services,” said Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, president and CEO of PPDE. “We’ve had lots (of) requests from folks trying to make their way up the state, to be able to access a Planned Parenthood that is easier and more accessible for them. We found it important and necessary to provide easy access and as short of a driving time as possible to have our patients seen.”
Seaford’s 4,800-square-foot center is the first new PPDE location in 20 years and will be the second Planned Parenthood on the Delmarva Peninsula south of Dover, along with one in Easton, Maryland.
Ms. Lytle-Barnaby said PPDE has been looking for a site in Sussex County for two years. Construction began in November.
She added that she believes the former Rehoboth Beach clinic wasn’t the best spot because it served mostly vacationers and because full-time residents in the area were perhaps too old to need the services Planned Parenthood offers.
Sussex County lacks sufficient providers to treat residents in a timely fashion without being overburdened, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration. Statistics via the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services say that, in 2018, the average wait for a Sussex Countian who tried to see a primary care doctor with whom they did not have a preexisting relationship was 28 days — double the delay in 1998.
Because of this gap, Ms. Lytle-Barnaby said the need for a Planned Parenthood is there in Sussex County. She thinks it will alleviate some stress on local hospital systems and other physicians for emergency visits.
“If I call an OB-GYN right now, I’m often on a six-month waiting list,” she said. “If you have a problem, you have pain, discomfort, or you’re not sure what’s going on, a six-month wait is a really long time. Being able to speed that up quite a bit, that’s our wheelhouse — to get people in quickly, efficiently and give them really high-quality care.”
Recognizing that the new facility is in a conservative area of the state, Ms. Lytle-Barnaby said 90% of Planned Parenthood’s care is not abortions.
The clinic will offer general wellness exams, cancer screenings (breast and cervical), birth control, family-planning options, the HPV vaccine, colposcopies, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, emergency contraception, pregnancy tests, hormone therapy and general reproductive-health information, along with both medical and surgical abortion services.
“Abortion is not the main thing we do,” Ms. Lytle-Barnaby said. “We are responsible for preventing more people having unintended pregnancies than anybody else in the state because of the wide access of birth control that we provide and our counseling to folks to help them find a birth control that helps them not get pregnant, if that is their desire.”
In 2020, there were about 12,000 patient visits across the Wilmington, Newark and Dover facilities, according to PPDE.
The Seaford location will have 10 or 11 direct medical staff, Ms. Lytle-Barnaby said, and the exact hours are still being worked out. Oversight will still occur in PPDE’s main Wilmington office.