On June 8, Vanessa Mayo will likely be able to get her hair and nails done, even get her pet groomed. As things stand, she cannot continue medical services that can improve her chances getting pregnant.
Mayo is responding to comments from Health Minister John Haggie this week in which he said it was understanding that the fertility clinic in St. John’s would remain closed until the public health emergency is over.
“In a sense that has been put in suspended animation until such time as the country comes out of the first wave,” said Haggie, who said services were suspended “in other jurisdictions for the same reasons.”
That is not the case. For example, Atlantic Assisted Reproductive Therapies in Halifax has said it will resume in-person treatments on June 1. The Ottawa Fertility Centre began a phased in approach on May 25.
Mayo and her husband, Stuart Mayo, have been trying for a baby for three years, and — prior to the pandemic — had done three cycles of IUI (intrauterine insemination), without success.
Thousands of dollars and many kilometres to parenthood
“Planning is ongoing for the resumption of fertility services and will be communicated with patients once we are in a position to gradually and safely begin to resume these services. In addition, once confirmed, plans will be communicated with the corresponding COVID-19 service level,” said an Eastern Health spokesperson.
Time is of the essence
Carter and her husband have done two IVF cycles in Calgary and travelled twice to Ottawa.
They were ready for a transfer three days before the clinic in Ottawa shut down due to COVID-19. The clinic told them they could continue the procedure but without knowing if the St. John’s clinic would remain open during the pandemic for followup, the Carters decided against it.
Carter said she and other residents of the province are already at a disadvantage because they live in one of two provinces in Canada without IVF technologies. The doctors are here, but the service is not.
Many couples pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket — the procedure is not funded by the provincial government unlike some other provinces — to travel to IVF clinics outside Newfoundland and Labrador.
Carter she doesn’t feel supported by her government, and said its evident by a lack of grants or funding for fertility services. She adds the psychologist dedicated to women experiencing infertility is located outside the case room in the Janeway Hospital.
“We understand things have to go slow but look at the priority of things as well,” she said.
“If you can prioritize somebody to get their hair done, get their nails done, by all means you can start up appointments like this that are extremely time sensitive.”
In order to travel for IVF, couples ne to use the local clinic for blood work, ultrasounds and other tests. That means even though Canadian clinics are open, women here cannot leave unless they want to spend their entire cycle in another province.
Asked about these concerns Friday, Haggie said it’s a difficult decision that he has no control over.
“That goes back to a clinical decision as to what is time sensitive from the point of view of treatment,” Haggie said.
“That is a clinical decision so obviously I have no control and very little insight into what goes on into other jurisdictions.”
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