Nurse: More middle-class patients accessing system

Older patients often assume Planned Parenthood is all about condoms and birth control pills, and feel embarrassed to be seen there, she said.

But, as the economy continues to stagnate, and so many have lost jobs and insurance, they’re beginning to get past that stigma. The total number of visits to the clinic has increased from less than 12,000 in 2006 to almost 18,000 last year.

DeLaurier-O’Neil, 58, has worked in nursing on and off since 1975. Last year, she came to Planned Parenthood out of retirement because she, herself, needed health insurance.

The recent shift in need has been noticeable, she said. She’s long seen poor people and low-income workers struggle to access health care. But now the center staff is seeing professional women, bank tellers and teachers who’ve lost jobs or had their hours cut, or who are trying to cut corners after their husbands become unemployed.

One of DeLaurier-O’Neil’s colleagues, a nurse who used to work in private practice, said she’s seen about 20 of her former private practice patients coming into the clinic in the past 18 months.

A recent survey conducted by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte — which serves 42 counties across Central California and Northern Nevada — shows that more than 45 percent of patients had lost jobs or hours in the past year, and almost 53 percent had avoided seeing a doctor in the past year due to cost.

The Modesto center’s staff can provide limited types of care, but for many health conditions they must do their best to find other resources for their patients, calling upon doctor friends or other safety net providers for help.

Sometimes, the best thing DeLaurier-O’Neil can do is let patients tell her their stories.

“Sometimes just somebody listening to you is all you need to get through the day,” she said.

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