The government says it will fund IVF treatment for couples struggling to have children from next year, Extra.ie can reveal.
Ireland is the only EU country that does not publicly fund IVF treatment. But Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed the Coalition is proposing legislation that will pave the way for publicly funded treatment in 2023.
Writing in this week’s Mail on Sunday, the minister says: ‘We are making progress on assisted human reproduction legislation which will allow us to introduce publicly funded IVF treatment. This is something I would like to introduce in 2023.’
Mr. Donnelly has not yet indicated how much funding will be made available. IVF treatment costs €4,000 to €6,000 for a single cycle, leaving couples who have to undergo multiple treatment cycles with a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Speaking directly to the MoS about his initiative, Mr Donnelly said confirming the target date for NIF funding for next year is “the most explicit statement of intent yet”, but he added that “obtaining a start in 2023 is subject to budgetary discussions and the estimation process”.
Asked what funding will be available, a spokesman for Mr Donnelly said he ‘does not have hard figures yet’.
The spokesperson added: ‘He has clear goals, although there is still a long way to go with officials and clinicians.
The Minister confirmed the decision to fund IVF treatment by announcing in the article a series of measures to improve women’s health care.
He confirmed that free contraception will be made available to women between the ages of 17 and 25 from August. And he has pledged to eliminate waiting lists for gynecological procedures by the end of the year. In January Extra.ie revealed that more than 30,000 women are waiting for their first hospital appointment to diagnose gynecological conditions.
To tackle the huge waiting list, Mr Donnelly said the government plans to more than double the existing nine ‘see and treat’ clinics, which aim to provide same-day assessment and treatment for women ‘who would previously have had several visits to different parts”. of the health service”.
The Minister writes: “By the end of the year, we will increase the number of consultation and treatment clinics to 20, which will allow us to effectively eliminate the current waiting list for such care by the end of 2023.”
He also said the Coalition planned to open five more state-funded menopause clinics by the end of the year – two more in Dublin to add to the specialist facility which opened in Holles Street last December, and “one in Cork, Galway and Limerick”. .
Support groups calling for state-funded IVF treatment have welcomed the minister’s pledge to provide state financial support to couples by next year.
A spokesperson for the National Infertility Support and Information Group told the MoS: ‘We welcome Mr Donnelly’s commitment to advancing this legislation later this year and look forward to engaging with him on this. IVF and other fertility treatments place a huge financial burden on people at a very vulnerable and stressful time in their lives.
‘AHR [Assisted Human Reproduction] the legislation is long overdue and welcome in terms of bringing Ireland into line with other European standards and actually regulating a modern fertility treatment system for a modern Ireland.
Pressure is mounting on the government to end Ireland’s status as the only EU country not to fund IVF.
Twelve member states pay for up to six cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI), according to the European Fertility Atlas, published by Fertility Europe with the support of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights last December.
It also found that three countries offer up to six fully funded cycles of IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where an embryologist injects a single sperm into the egg to facilitate fertilization, and 35 partially fund it. .
Overall, Ireland was ranked 40th out of 43 nations for access to fertility treatments, with only Belarus, Ukraine and Turkey ranking lower.
Women who have had IVF last night said state funding would make “a huge difference” for many couples.
Antonia Fleeton, from Co.Meath, had five unsuccessful IVF cycles before finally conceiving her daughter, forcing her into ‘huge debt’.
Ms Fleeton told the MoS: ‘To have government funding, even for one or two cycles, I think would make a huge difference.’
During a Seanad debate on the issue last year, Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh said the government was failing couples who could not afford IVF because she revealed she had to have five rounds.
She told Mr Donnelly: ‘Statistics show that infertility affects one in six couples and affects men and women equally.’ The cost of IVF in Ireland can start at €4,500 but realistically with blood tests and consultations it can end up costing close to €10,000.