SENDING FERTILITY PATIENTS TO PRIVATE CARE IS THE WRONG DIRECTION
Friends of Medicare are calling for a reversal of the AHS decision to terminate services at the Edmonton Regional Fertility and Women's Endocrine Clinic at Edmonton's Lois Hole Hospital.
News broke November 2 via twitter that the clinic will no longer offer services such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), as well as donor eggs and sperm programs. Patients will now be referred to private clinics in Edmonton or Calgary for those services.
"With the services ending in February, the Ministry of Health has time to reverse this decision, and they should," said Executive Director Sandra Azocar. "The clinic at the Lois Hole Hospital is one of the last of two public academic IVF centres in all of Canada. Instead of ending the services, they should keep them in the hospital and begin covering IVF as a publicly insured service, which could save the health system as much as $100 million per year
. That money could then be reinvested in improved services."
Friends of Medicare raised the alarm in January, 2016
over the opening of a private fertility clinic and the possible loss of services in the valuable public research clinic. The clinic provides access to gynaecologic reproductive endocrinology (GREI) teaching to the University. The clinic is also known to have trained more IVF specialists at the University of Alberta in the last 10 years than any other university in Canada.
"We are disappointed to see this happening, as we raised concerns about the costs and ethics of private fertility clinics which we believe remain unaddressed. Alberta's NDP Government ran on a platform to "end the PCs costly experiments in privatization", and this decision goes against that promise," added Azocar.
Costs to patients in the public clinic are limited on a cost recovery basis to the hospital. Private clinics are allowed to offer those services at a higher cost, adding unnecessary cost barriers to those accessing reproductive health.
The Calgary Herald reported in 2014
that when issues arose at Calgary's private fertility clinic over the clinics insistence on using only donors of the same ethnicity, as well as confusing issues around access to egg donors, the Herald found that "Neither the government nor the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta has jurisdiction over private clinic policies."
"Alberta Health Services needs to rethink this decision, and the Ministry of Health needs to ensure Albertans that we will stop seeing services offered under public delivery sent to private providers," continued Azocar. "Public research institutions, and services that should be covered as part of our public health care system should not be sent to an under regulated private market."