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'Extremely busy' | Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health clinic sees demand surge after Planned Parenthood closure and fire

Planned Parenthood Knoxville temporarily closed for renovations on December 7. After a devastating fire, it's unclear when it will re-open.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — As the co-director and family nurse practitioner at the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, Corinne Rovetti knows her job isn't liked by everyone. She doesn't let that stop her.

"Those services need to be provided," she said. "People need to be able to receive them."

About half of the patients visiting the Fort Sanders clinic are seeking abortions, but the clinic provides more services than that. The other half of patients are usually looking for pap smears, cancer screening, breast exams, treatments for STIs and much more.

"We do every form of birth control," Rovettie said. "The way to eliminate abortions is to be sure that people have access to reliable birth control and affordable birth control."

Typically, Rovetti said they work closely with Knoxville's Planned Parenthood on various projects and initiatives. However, Planned Parenthood had to close forced temporarily for renovations in early December.

RELATED: Planned Parenthood clinic 'a total loss' after early morning fire

"To be down to one provider in the city, it has definitely challenged us," Rovetti said. "Rarely do we have a waiting list for people and we are now trying to keep that to a two-week timeline."

Last week, flames destroyed the Planned Parenthood location in Knoxville. Investigators are still looking into what caused the fire that burned down the clinic that served thousands of people across Knoxville. Now, Rovetti and her team don't know when the high demand for care will slow down.

"These are our friends and these are our colleagues," Rovetti said. "It was extremely disturbing to hear about the fire and the devastation there."

She said they're working as hard as they can to accommodate all the patient requests. Planned Parenthood said it served 2,414 people with family planning services like birth control, saw 815 abortion patients and helped 712 people get gender-affirming hormone treatments.

"To get services elsewhere would mean going out of state because Nashville is a Planned Parenthood provider, but they are backed up, as I understand, for 4 weeks to 5 weeks," Rovetti said. "Women are really being crunched and feeling fairly desperate at times."

The Knoxville Fire Department is still working to pinpoint the cause of the fire. Weather and the size of the destruction have slowed investigators down, officials said, but they hope to have an update this week.

In the meantime, Rovetti has requested extra safety precautions.

"Since last January, we have seen an increase in more disturbing kinds of protesters that we've had here," she said. "We have asked for increased patrolling around here and we were so happy to see yesterday we had an officer who came in to check on us."

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