Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed that state funding will be made available for IVF treatments by 2023.
Ireland ranks 40 out of 43 European countries for access to fertility treatment, but still takes on 10,000 cycles and assisted reproduction appointments every year. One IVF cycle currently costs approximately €6,000, and an extra €1000 to improve the success rate. Research has indicated that one in six couples will struggle with infertility, and some reported to have done five or six cycles before successfully conceiving a baby.
“We are progressing legislation on Assisted Human Reproduction that will enable us to introduce publicly funded IVF treatment,” Donnelly said. “This is something I would like to introduce in 2023.”
Donnelly has yet to specify how much funding will be made available.
Additionally, the health department announced additional steps to improve women’s healthcare. Donnelly has confirmed to make contraceptives free for 17 to 25-year-olds in August and made plans to eliminate waiting lists for gynaecological procedures by the end of the year. There are only 9 see-and-treat clinics in the country, which has contributed to the growing waiting lists.
“By the end of the year we will bring the number of see-and-treat clinics to 20, allowing us to effectively eliminate the current waiting list for such care by the end of 2023,” Donnelly said.
The Government has thus allocated €31 million to regulating women’s health in Budget 2022.
Professor Mary Wingfield, Clinical Director of the Merrion Fertility Clinic, expressed concerns that the Government has made similar promises for IVF treatment state funding in the past, but no advancements have been made since then.
“It’s quite a complicated endeavour to fund IVF and to decide who will be eligible, and I’m not sure that any of those decisions have been made,” Professor Wingfield said.
Professor Wingfield also stressed that expensive IVF procedures will only add to the statistic of unsuccessful conceptions. “Studies show that it’s as stressful as having cancer,” she said. “So to compound that by adding in the financial stress just really makes it so hard for people.”
In the meantime, companies in Ireland have offered their employees paid fertility leaves, with Lidl being the latest addition. Vodafone and Pinterest have also introduced the policy to create a more family-friendly workplace.
Lidl employees looking for IVF treatment will be able to earn two days of full pay per cycle. The policy does not have a cap for the number of cycles employees can apply for.
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