Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Women of WORTH clinic receives 3 grants

Women of WORTH clinic receives 3 grants
by Staff Reports
09.20.11 - 08:45 am
Marilyn Ringstaff’s Women of W.O.R.T.H. clinic is a nonprofit organization that provides low-cost women’s health services including pap smears, birth control and STD testing. (Kaitlin Beard, RN-T.com)
Rome’s Women of Worth Inc. clinic has been chosen to receive a grant award in the amount of $5,000 to support its Cervical Cancer Screening Project.

The CDC-sponsored American Psychological Association Socioeconomic Status Related Cancer Disparities program awarded the grant.

The grant is awarded in the spirit of providing resources and supporting efforts to improve cancer health outcomes for underserved populations. SESRCD states that “the grants committee was very impressed with the organization’s work toward cancer prevention and is extremely proud that SESRCD is able to support its efforts in the community.”

The clinic plans to conduct educational events for women’s groups regarding cervical cancer prevention and the availability of other community resources.

Clinic volunteers Kristen Sheeley and Corina Zarkowski are in charge of planning all events.

WORTH plans to provide free exams and Pap smears to 50 uninsured women who could not otherwise afford to have preventive health screening. WORTH also plans to educate and vaccinate 50 young men and women with the Gardasil vaccine.

The first Free Pap Smear screening day is planned for Oct. 21. The first day will be aimed at screening for Floyd County’s Hispanic population. Interpreters will be available and women may call 706-232-3408 to make an appointment. More about upcoming events will be posted on the clinic’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/


The WORTH clinic also recently received a $1,000 grant to update its computer equipment from Rome ReSale. The clinic is now using electronic medical records.

In addition, the clinic received a $1,000 grant from Walmart, which they will use for its building fund.

According to Marilyn Ringstaff, CEO of WORTH, the clinic’s mission is to improve the health status of women in Georgia.

“Cervical cancer is preventable with vaccination and timely Pap screening, and the cancer is treatable when found in early stages. But in the U.S., after breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women ages 20 to 39,” she said.

She noted that Georgia’s rates of preventable cervical cancers are unacceptably high because women cannot afford to have a Pap smear.

“More than 20 percent of women in Northwest Georgia have no medical insurance and only 72 percent of uninsured women in Georgia have regular Pap screening. As a result, every year in Georgia over 400 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and around 120 women die from this preventable cancer,” said Ringstaff.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of women diagnosed with late stage or untreatable cervical cancers is high in Georgia.

“Just within the last calendar year, the WORTH clinic has diagnosed at least 10 high-grade cervical abnormalities and treatable cancers for uninsured women. WORTH was able to get these women referred into the early treatment,” she said.

The nonprofit WORTH clinic was established in 2008 and provides gynecological care at affordable rates to women of all ages and with any insurance status.

The clinic is located at 1513 Dean St. in Rome and may be reached at 706-232-3408 or at info@womenareworthit.org.

© rn-t.com 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My testimony at the Public Hearing "Health and Access to Healthcare"

My testimony at the Public Hearing "Health and Access to Healthcare"
sponsored by the Georgia Commission on Women, Georgia State Capitol, 5/18/2011. [this is what I meant to say even if it is not what I actually said].

My name is Marilyn Ringstaff. I am a Certified Nurse-Midwife and I have lived and worked in Rome, GA for almost 25 years. I worked for about 10 years in a private practice, 10 years in public health and now run a non-profit women’s health clinic, Women of W.O.R.T.H., Inc. in Rome.

Nellie, I know you said to limit our comments to 5 minutes, but let me tell you right from the start that what I have to say cannot be condensed into 5 minutes. So, I’ve written out my comments and I will put them up on my blog at Ringstaff.blogspot.com. Of course, it won’t be verbatim, but will be close to what I want to say.

As I said, I have worked in women’s health care for almost 25 years in Georgia and I remain astounded at how bad our health care system is for preventive health care. Rome, GA is a town with the highest number of doctors per capita in Georgia, but our women cannot find affordable preventive health care. Health care is the number one industry in Rome, it is a billion dollar industry in a small Georgia town but still our women cannot even find a simple affordable Pap smear.

Both our private health care and public health systems are broken. I have been writing for years on the subject, in internal e-mails to Georgia public health and letters to the Editor, editorials, blogs, notes on Facebook, Twitter documenting the dire situation for our women. I have written to every state agency including the Governor’s office with ZERO response. I have written so much that I have an entire book ready to publish on the problems of women’s health care in Georgia.

There’s no money to be made in preventive health screening. We have a complete lack of concern for the lives and health of our women--unless there is a dollar to be made or a state job with zero accountability to hang on to. Remember Nellie when I got the e-mail about this meeting, I wrote you back and said more talk was a waste of time—who would listen? But here I am, hoping someone will listen. I have found that even those who call themselves ‘women’s advocates’ will not advocate about real or controversial problems and some who call themselves advocates are some of the worst care providers I have seen.

There likely is no response from public health because public health IS part of the problem. For years I have been telling Georgia public health leaders that our health departments in NW GA are not delivering mandated services. No one cares if it isn’t their job or their pot of money that is threatened. Neither health department nor health directors are accountable for the health of the people entrusted to their care. This is the state of the care within public health. When I served on the public health protocol committee- the mandate was removed that required a health director to be clinically active. So now, outdated physicians ‘supervise’ (from a distance) RN’s practicing under a protocol written by non-clinically active RN’s-and these nurses are providing the only health care available to Georgians who have the greatest health risk.

It is not just that some health departments are not patient friendly. I brought it to the attention of public health leaders that our local health department was egregiously wasting taxpayer funds and putting roadblocks into the paths of those who need the help the most. I told our nursing and health director about extreme mismanagement, poor patient care, billing errors, violations of federal mandates, no supervision and terrible customer service, to name a few problems. I told my health director that the problems were so severe that our Grand Jury should be called upon to investigate it. But, I was fired in 2008 for talking about the problems. Now they can’t fire me anymore and I’ve kept talking about it but still no one will listen. I have documented the sorry state of women’s health in Georgia for years and no one within the entire public health administration could be bothered to even comment.

Before I was fired, I ran the Teen Plus Center in Rome- a Center that likely had the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the state and we demonstrated a significant drop in our county’s chlamydia and gonorrhea rates. I saw 2,500 patients my last year there- now this pitiful excuse of a clinic saw 400 patients last year and likely is getting the same funding.

Our health department continues to refuse to see patients, based upon their inability to pay, by overcharging them and not telling patients that the fees may be scaled down if they can’t pay. The health departments in NW Georgia charge as much or more than private providers for a Pap smear appointment-and these are the patients most at risk for cervical cancer.

Our patients report that the health departments in NW Georgia routinely screen out the high-risk patients and refuse appointments for a Pap smear if they have an abnormal Pap or even a history of an abnormal Pap. The, if the woman’s Pap was not up to date, she was refused an appointment for birth control. Two of our health departments in District 1-1 required a woman to bring her medical records in for review before they would even schedule her appointment. We had our volunteers call and document that this was actually the practice. For those lucky enough to get into a H.D., birth control method choices are antiquated and limited.

Appointments at our local health department are impossible to obtain for women’s health care- yet they continue to receive the funding to provide the services. I have informed public health at the state level in both family planning and BCCP program that I have patient names and numbers or reported complaints should they care to investigate--they never have. 

I’m going to play you an actual patient interview from Saturday- a patient that has not had a Pap smear in 20 years. Tape played for the Commission-an audio file of a patient last Saturday who came to W.O.R.T.H. with a problem after she could not get an appointment for a women’s health check-up at the Floyd County Health Dept. and she tried for over a year (her last Pap was 20 years ago). http://alturl.com/t2bc4  

ME:                 So, you called the health department?

Patient:            I called the health department. I would call them & they would say ‘you need to call back next month, we’re all booked up.’ They’d give me a date to call back & I would call back. Then they would tell me the same thing and they just kept doing it and doing it and it has been almost a year now & I still haven’t been able to even get them to write my name down for an appointment.

ME:                 Did you tell them that you were having a medical problem?

Patient:            Yes.  The thing about it is, I actually walked, cause every time I called them on the phone, I said maybe if I would go up there and make it a little personal they’ll do something. So I go up there & she takes me in the back I sit down and she’s asking me what’s wrong & I tell her the issues that I’m having & she writes me down like I’m going to get an appointment & then she tells me that she can’t see me.

The problems with our women obtaining cervical cancer screening is so disturbing that I have talked with both the American Cancer Society and the Georgia Cancer Coalition. Neither one of them will help with cancer prevention. The ACS offered us some brochures. On Friday the ACS will have a Relay for Life in Floyd County raising almost $100,000 **for the ACS** but not much to stay in Floyd County and none to prevent cancer.

We are an STD epidemic state and our uninsured patients cannot get an appointment at the health department for testing or treatment.  This is not a question of funding-it is a problem of (mis)management within public health. Two weeks ago I saw a young man at W.O.R.T.H. who tested positive for chlamydia. He said that his girlfriend tested positive in February and he went to the health department to get treated. This health department in Floyd County refused to treat him until he paid $140.00 up front.

The Georgia Commission on Women may not have a budget left, but you do still have a voice. My hope is that will do more than sit here and listen. Somebody needs to speak up for the women of Georgia. Thank You.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Free Pap Smear screening day 5/21/2011

CONTACT PERSON: Marilyn Ringstaff, clinic director
(706) 512-0453 (cell) or 232-3408 (clinic)
or e-mail marilyn@womenareworthit.org


Rome, Georgia, (May 10, 2011) – Women of W.O.R.T.H., Inc. is joining the Office of Women's Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in celebrating National Women's Health Week. To celebrate Women's Health Week, the Junior Service League of Rome is assisting W.O.R.T.H. with a project which will provide free Pap smear screenings for eligible women.

National Women's Health Week is a nationwide initiative that calls attention to the importance of women's health and to educate women about simple steps they can take for longer, healthier and happier lives. All women are encouraged to schedule at least one preventive health screening during May 2011.

Women ages 21 to 65 should have a Pap smear at least every two years. Unfortunately, many local women cannot afford preventive health screenings, particularly Pap smear screening for cervical cancer. As a result, every year in Georgia over 400 new invasive cervical cancer cases are diagnosed and nearly 120 women will die from this preventable cancer.

The Junior Service League of Rome recently awarded W.O.R.T.H. with a grant to enable the clinic to provide fifty free Pap smear screenings for uninsured women in the Rome and Floyd County area. On Saturday, May 21st, Women of W.O.R.T.H., Inc. will hold its first free Pap smear screening day from 9:00 to 5:00. Priority will be given to women who are uninsured and have not had a Pap smear in the last three years. Appointments are required and women may call (706) 232-3408 to make an appointment.

Women of W.O.R.T.H., Inc. is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 and is composed of volunteers and health care providers who are dedicated to improving the health status of women in Georgia. For more information about the clinic, please contact the clinic at (706) 232-3408 or by e-mail at info@womenareworthit.org.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy News! and the (same ole) Sad News

Happy News! A patient called today to let me know she was about to be a grandmother—by her daughter that I delivered 23 years ago (yes, I am that old!).

Sad News- the same list of messages included a call from this young woman: she needs an annual exam & Pap smear asap. She hesitated when I told her that our clinic has no funding and we must charge $45.00 for a Pap. When she said she didn’t have that much right now, I asked her if she had called the health dep’t. She almost exploded on the phone. “I will never go there again, the health dep’t SUCKS” she proclaimed. “The people there make you feel like crap.” Then she told me about her experience when her baby got very sick after she got the wrong formula. “No one would listen to me.”  She went on “and you know what really makes me upset is because what if I were a parent out there on the edge and I almost was, I didn’t want to have a baby, but I am trying to do the best I can, but some parents aren’t-I know parents like that and what if the health dep’t makes some parent on the edge like that feel like they aren’t a good parent- what is a parent like that going to do.” (I’m paraphrasing by now because her words were just coming out in a torrent).   She went on to say “I mean, they are getting paid for what they do and if they don’t like it-they should just go home.” This young woman’s baby is just a few months old but she is not using birth control because her Medicaid was cancelled and she REFUSES (she says) to go back into this health dep’t.

I explained to her that for several years we have tried to no avail to get the attention of anyone within Georgia public health to act on these many problems we have reported.  I told her that we needed for her to speak up. She will be in the next time we are open--on Friday- and she will try to bring $20.00.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How Bad is it in Georgia?

Besides fielding numerous phone calls- these were some of our patients just today:
  • An HIV (+) woman who had a recent cervical cancer diagnosed at our clinic.
  •  Two uninsured women in their mid-20’s came together- for the FIRST ever exam and Pap smear 
  •  A 19 year old man in to treat chlamydia.  We tested him at our free chlamydia screening day last week.  He now reveals that his girlfriend was known (+) and she was treated in February.  He went to the Floyd County Health dept. and they refused to treat him until he (an uninsured and unemployed young man) paid $140.00 -now she is (+) for chlamydia again.
  • An uninsured, unemployed woman needed her Implanon removed and the Dr’s office that inserted it required $350.00/up front before they would see her (this procedure takes just a few minutes and about $5.00 worth of supplies).
  •  A 23 year old, uninsured- with a urinary tract infection came here instead of the E.R. for treatment 
  •  An uncontrolled insulin dependent diabetic smoker with high cholesterol came in for her overdue Pap – she likely has an STD 
  • I called a 26 yr old, uninsured to let her know that her cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL were all elevated
That's how bad it is!  W.O.R.T.H. is a preventive health care clinic but preventive healthcare is almost impossible to obtain for the uninsured in Georgia.  As a result, the follow-up medical care our patients need is much more expensive for both the patient and the taxpayers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

W.O.R.T.H clinic offering free STD testing

Rome, Georgia, – April is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month.

On Saturday, April 9, 2011 the W.O.R.T.H. clinic will offer free chlamydia and gonorrhea testing all day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1513 Dean St. in Rome. This is a urine based test and no physical examination is necessary.  Chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial infections that are easily treated if detected early, says Marilyn Ringstaff, clinic director.

If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea are major causes of infertility and ectopic pregnancies among women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conservatively estimates that about 24,000 women a year become infertile because of undiagnosed and untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea, Ringstaff says. These and other common STDs can also increase the risk of HIV transmission for both women and men.

According to the CDC, chlamydia rates are at a historic high. In 2009, a record 1,244,180 cases of chlamydia were reported. This was a 2.8 percent increase over the 2008 rate and the largest number of cases for any condition ever reported. This is also less than half the estimated 2.8 million chlamydia cases that are believed to be out there

The CDC states that the estimated 19 million new STD cases a year cost $16.4 billion a year in health costs. STDs pose a serious public health threat to Americans – particularly to young women, African Americans, men who have sex with men (MSM), and individuals living in poverty, uninsured or who have limited access to healthcare.

There are many effective ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat STDs. Because many STDs often have no signs or symptoms, STD screening and early diagnoses are vital to prevent serious health consequences and increased transmission. More information about STDs is available at www.cdc.gov/std. Appointments are not necessary for this free testing day. For more information, patients may contact the clinic at (706) 232-3408.

Read more: RN-T.com - W O R T H clinic offering free STD testing

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The War on Women

U.S. Catholic Bishops Major Force Behind War on Women; February 23, 2011

"The collusion of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has led to an open declaration of war on the women of this country. The bishops have long sought to enshrine into law those policies of the Catholic Church that subordinate women. And they don't care how badly women get hurt in the process. In the last election, the bishops helped to elect legislators that would do their bidding, which includes enacting dangerous and discriminatory bills denying women safe, accessible and affordable abortion care and family planning, even encouraging hospitals to let women die in the name of 'life.'. . .stunningly dangerous efforts that, if enacted, can and will result in the preventable deaths of women:
  • HR 358, which many are calling the 'Let the Women Die Act' --gives our government's 'blessing' to any E.R. that would let a pregnant woman die rather than perform an abortion procedure that could save her life. 
  • HR 3, AKA 'Stupak on Steroids,' would enshrine the Hyde Amendment into law and expand it to impose tax penalties on millions of families and businesses whose private insurance covers abortion care, --Catholic bishops proudly support revoking abortion rights even in cases of rape. . 
  • HR 217, which NOW has dubbed the 'Public Health Nightmare Act,' would permanently eliminate Title X family planning services, leaving millions of women and men stranded without essential services like birth control and screenings for cancer, HIV/AIDS and STDs.

Pro-life? Hardly. Not only are these assaults on women's rights at odds with generally accepted medical practice and flatly unethical, there is little doubt that they will kill women. . .

Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Phil Gingrey asks how ACA helps me. Here is how.

Congressman Phil Gingrey.  1/18/2011 Dear Dr. Gingrey, you said in your unsolicited spam e-mail, "Please let me know how this law’s new spending, taxes, and mandates will affect you."  Here is how it affects me: For the first time ever I can rest assured that my health will not worsen or that I will die simply because I am uninsured. As a health care provider who has tried for years to care for the uninsured, I am thrilled that someone courageous FINALLY did something about the egregious problems in our health care industry.  That is how the ACA affects me.

If you, as you say, "remain committed to repealing this law" I remain committed to doing all I can to keep the public informed of your actions **as a physician** that will worsen the health care for our most fragile citizens.

Marilyn Ringstaff