Friday 24 November 2017

Recession hits IVF couples where it hurts

Impact: Dr David Walsh of Sims clinic says that overall there are less enquiries from people seeking IVF.
Impact: Dr David Walsh of Sims clinic says that overall there are less enquiries from people seeking IVF.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Growing numbers of couples desperate for children are limited in the number of fertility treatments they can avail of because of the recession.

Clinics are also seeing a rise in the number of people with medical cards asking for discounted treatments, even though the availability of these slots is restricted.

This is leading to longer waiting lists for people with medical cards who are having to go in a queue, losing precious time.

The changing trends have been confirmed by a number of clinics, including the Human Assisted Reproduction Ireland (HARI) clinic in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin and the Merrion Fertility Clinic, which is linked to the National Maternity Hospital.

A course of IVF treatment costs in the region of €4,500 but many couples have to undergo several cycles.

A spokesperson for the HARI clinic said recently that more couples were now having to think twice about whether they could have a second or third treatment cycle.

"At the same time we are seeing more patients with medical cards, who would previously have come privately, coming for treatment," said the spokesperson.

The numbers of people with medical cards who can avail of the treatments is capped. The HARI clinic said it had seen the proportion of medical card patients receiving IVF cycles rise in recent years.

They rose from 6.2pc of 766 treatment cycles in 2006 to 10.7pc of 839 cycles in 2009.

Last year 599 couples attended for interview compared to 618 in 2009, the doctors' journal the 'Medical Independent' reported.

A spokesman for the Merrion Clinic said they could offer a limited number of discounted treatments at 20pc of the full costs to medical cards but it varies per year.

"There is no public funding so it comes from our own funds. We are seeing more medical card patients trying to access the service.

"Previously we could more or less treat them on demand but the waiting times now can be up to six months. Age is vital and the longer it takes to undergo a cycle the chances of success reduce."

The spokesperson said people may be able to find the money for one cycle but they were increasingly finding it difficult to access funds and loans.

Dr David Walsh, of the Sims clinic in Dublin, said they did 1,063 major fertility cycles last year compared to 948 in 2009.

"Overall there are less enquiries but those who do come are more likely to start."

Helen Brown, chairwoman of the National Infertility Support Group, revealed the organisation was getting an increasing number of calls from women in distress.

"They are contacting us saying they can only afford to go for one cycle and are heartbroken. A second cycle may give them a better chance because the treatment can be more precise," she explains.

"Previously, people could have cobbled the money together, getting €500 from family members and €1,000 from parents and other sources. But that has now closed off for many."

She believes the lack of legislation regulating fertility treatments has hampered moves to try to get more State aid for the service.

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