Long-awaited, basic details about Ontario’s $50-million infertility program — like the names of clinics approved to offer publicly funded treatments — will be released in the “coming days,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins promises.
It’s welcome news for fertility centres that have been overwhelmed with calls from confused patients who are desperate to know if they’ll be picked for one of 5,000 coveted in vitro fertilization treatment spots in Ontario. Specialists have told the Toronto Star their wait lists are hundreds-of-patients long and that it won’t be possible to accommodate everyone.
The program is open to people of all genders and sexual orientations under the age of 43 who carry a valid health card. It’s estimated that as many as 20,000 people will be seeking treatment. Some clinics will use a lottery system to draw names, arguing it’s impossible to decide whether a 33-year-old woman with endometriosis deserves urgent care more than a childless, 41-year-old woman who is on the verge of aging out of the program.
“How do I decide?” asks Dr. Rahi Victory, a fertility specialist who practises in Windsor and Greater Toronto. He worries the program is an ethical quagmire.
Victory says he already has more patients signed up for funded treatment than he can accommodate.
“Approximately every four months, I will have a one-year wait list,” he says. “So when I see someone in 2017, I can offer them IVF in 2021. That’s neither fair nor appropriate.”
He wants the ministry to create “centralized limitations that narrow the number of people eligible for IVF to something that approximates the number the government is allowing us.
“Or we need to have unrestricted access where we can say everyone is eligible for one cycle of IVF.”
That’s not going to happen, Hoskins says.
“We expect physicians to use their best clinical judgment . . . We do that in the health care system.
“We allocate to hospitals, for example, a certain volume of hip replacements that we’ll pay for in a given year. The clinicians, together with the hospital, work together within that allocation and prioritize patients who need the hip replacement. There is no difference.”
People should focus on the program’s positives, Hoskins adds, not its pitfalls.
“We’re investing, in these challenging fiscal times when there are many priorities, 50 million new dollars to provide this important service . . . I think this is something we should be proud of as a province.”