The Executive Council again denies the funding of 3 health centers that perform abortions
By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Three reproductive health centers that provide 80% of the state’s contraceptive services to more than 10,000 women, many of them on modest means, had their two-year contracts rejected on Wednesday by the state’s Executive Council according to reports. partisan principles.
The decision will make receiving these services more expensive and more difficult and will add burdens to emergency rooms and other areas of the state’s health system which is now overwhelmed by COVID-19, providers said. .
Three other contracts for reproductive health centers that do not perform abortion have been approved.
The board also approved funding for more COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites, as well as a campaign to encourage vaccinations.
No federal or state fund can pay for abortions under the law, but Republican advisers said they still have unanswered questions about how the funds are segregated.
Republican executive councilors Joe Kenney of Wakefield, Janet Stevens of Rye, Ted Gatsas of Manchester and David Wheeler of Milford voted to reject the contracts.
This vote followed a similar path as a vote in September to provide short-term funding for these clinics.
Concord Democrat Cinde Warmington was the sole supporter of all contracts.
She called on the Republican majority to put politics aside and support public health at a time when the state’s healthcare system is overwhelmed by a pandemic.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who backed the contracts, called for a review and said the case was not over.
The three clinics that were denied funding are Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which reportedly received $ 125 to support this facility in Claremont, Manchester, Keene, Derry and Exeter; Joan G. Lovering Health Center in Greenland which would have received $ 336,934 and Concord Feminist Health Center (doing business as Equality Health Center) which would have received $ 558,395.
The approved contracts were for Amoskeag Health of Manchester for $ 335,512, Coos County Family Health of Berlin for $ 268,152 and Lamprey Health Care of Nashua for an approved contract of $ 431,505.
“It’s shameful,” Kayla Montgomery, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, “once again, four executive advisers have chosen to reject public health experts and put their own politics ahead of politics. health of our state. “
Montgomery said the rejection of these funds “undermines the delivery of essential health care and marginalizes the granite states.”
She stressed that there were “no unanswered questions” and that councilors have made their position clear and that there is unlikely to be a change in the vote.
“The rejection of these funds today has only added additional stress to our health care system,” said Montgomery.
Condemnation for the vote came quickly from US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and other state Democratic leaders.
Shaheen noted that the vote follows oral arguments for a crucial United States Supreme Court case threatening the future of Roe v. Wade.
“The obsession with controlling women’s bodies and the futures of their families is disturbing and completely out of touch with the Granite Staters,” Shaheen said. “Let’s talk about what the Republicans in New Hampshire did last year: They imposed an abortion ban, instituted unnecessary and expensive ultrasounds and now they are cutting funding to health centers because they want to dictate what type of Granite State women’s health services seek.
“By doubling down on their decision to fund family planning contracts, Republicans across the state are sending the message to women that they cannot be trusted to make their own health decisions. Sacrificing health to score political points is a blatant assault on women, as well as on our families, many of whom rely on these family planning centers as their only resource for health care. As we face a COVID outbreak, the reach of the Executive Board’s decision will reach far reaching, compromising access not only to women’s reproductive health, but also to family health for the worst possible time. The partisan politics of the Republicans on the Executive Council endanger Granite Staters. This has to end, ”Shaheen said.
Cash from the Vax campaign
The Executive Council approved about $ 1 million more for an advertising campaign with GYK Antler of Manchester to send the continuing message to those in need of immunization to protect them and others from COVID-19.
New Hampshire has one of the worst vaccination percentages in New England, but is making additional efforts to create new fixed sites and provide mobile clinics to meet demand, which has increased since the arrival of the Omicron variant. .
The vote was 4-1, with Councilor Wheeler casting a dissenting vote.
“We are really in a crisis situation,” said Health and Social Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.
Shibinette said the number of people taking boosters is unknown but could become clearer in January, as a board funding delay of $ 27 million in federal funds earlier this year enabled the immunization registry efforts of the ‘State of falling behind.
Councilor Warmington, the only Democrat, asked Shibinette how they decided on the message for advertisements aimed at encouraging hesitant people to get vaccinated.
Shibinette said they are watching various polls, including those from the UNH, which help target what works best.
She said one of the more popular advertisements included a person who was hesitant but decided to get the shot and another by a doctor.
Warmington has in the past criticized the efforts as being focused on political figures such as the governor.
New sites, tests
After initially filing the application for new fixed sites and the tests and reviews requested by Sununu, the board approved several contracts, including a $ 7.2 million contract with Convenient MD LLC of Portsmouth, to administer COVID-19 vaccinations at up to six COVID-19 sites statewide.
Funding is immediately available and approval is until June 30, 2022, with the option to renew for up to one additional year using 100% federal funds.
Additionally, he authorized an amendment to an existing contract with ClearChoiceMD, New London, for COVID-19 testing at eight existing sites across the state, increasing the contract price by $ 20,000,000 to $ 8,822,660. to $ 28,822,660, and extending the completion date from December 31, 2021 to March 31, 2022, also using federal funds.
These are sole source contracts, which means no one is bidding for them, and that was a concern expressed by Councilors Gatsas and Wheeler.
Sununu said contracts are needed now in a crisis rather than waiting four months to bid with a request for proposals and a lengthy scoring process to get a recommended contractor.
The sites will not be in existing emergency care centers but in empty showcases statewide so everyone knows vaccines are free and separate from medical facilities.
“My problem, Governor, is that we are moving away from what the state is known for”,
Gatsas said: “And that’s the selectivity… I understand we’re in an epidemic and they need vaccines… but when we start to move away from bidding on a product… it’s just not correct. . “
Sununu said the traditional bidding process lasts at least three months.
“I agree with you 100%,” Sununu said, but noted that we are in a pandemic.
Gatsas said he heard from other suppliers who did not get the offer and suggested that the contract be split to allow them to participate.
Shibinette said that “the companies complaining about you were given sole-source contracts during the pandemic,” and added that there is a sense of urgency to vaccinate people with more than 460 people currently hospitalized in the pandemic. ‘State with COVID-19.
“We have to put needles in our arms now,” she said.
The sites will join a similar complement existing by the On Site entrepreneur where people can go without an appointment from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week to be vaccinated, whether it is a booster or a initial or secondary dose, free of charge.
There are actually three providers now, the commissioner said.
“We don’t want to depend on just one company,” Shibinette said, noting that the state intentionally split federal dollars with three companies.
Sworn State Representative
Following a recent special election in Derry, winner Jodi Nelson was sworn in by the governor just before the Executive Council meeting.
Nelson is a Republican who replaces Republican State Representative Anne Copp who resigned last summer. Nelson is a businesswoman who beat Democrat Mary Eisner.
Republicans now have a 207-188 majority in the House.
Marguerite Wageling of Manchester has resigned as a judge of the Superior Court.
Rather than a traditional prayer, Sununu chose to read to the council the final passages of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” by Dr. Seuss and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.
The story tells how an imaginary village reacted to discovering that there were no Christmas presents that surprised an outcast as they sang together in unison. The passage was the book’s conclusion with the Grinch pondering the meaning of the party.
Maybe it was more than material objects. Sununu said he thought about it as he woke up at 2 a.m. to watch social media and said he hopes next year will be a better and more unified year for everyone.