A petition pushing to keep non-insured fertility services at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women in north Edmonton is gaining support.
The online petition garnered over 13,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon, with a goal of receiving 15,000 signatures. It’s calling on the Alberta government to reverse a decision to stop offering the services there.
The clinic has provided services such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). The Regional Fertility and Women’s Endocrine Clinic at the hospital will also discontinue donor egg and sperm programs.
“For some people, this will probably mean the end of their journey and that, to me, is a tragedy,” patient Dajana Fabjanovich said.
The changes will come into effect in February 2018.
“Many patients at this clinic are in the middle of treatment plans, they have gone through extensive testing and worked on specific plans with their doctors,” the petition reads. “This change for many will mean starting over and delaying treatments.”
The petition says there are 3,500 active patients at the clinic. One in six Canadian couples are believed to be affected by infertility.
“My husband and I are one of those one in six,” Fabjanovich said. “I just can’t imagine people not having that right to start a family, or the ability or opportunity to.
“When I heard that the clinic was ending its services, I was saddened, infuriated, disappointed,” she added. “This decision is short-sighted because there are many patients who are in the middle of their treatment plans who are now scrambling to figure out what their next steps are going to be.
“It’s a very time-sensitive process. It takes a long time to get these tests done. It’s not something where you speak to your doctor, you get a referral and you see the fertility specialist the next day. Sometimes it can take months, sometimes it can take years,” Fabjanovich said.
The clinic will remain open and continue to offer insured services to patients, such as cancer screening and high-risk pregnancy care.
Because the province doesn’t cover fertility treatments, patients pay out of pocket whether they go to a public or private clinic. Some Albertans are worried the changes at the public clinic will mean longer wait times — and possibly higher prices — to get treatment at a private facility.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees called the decision by AHS a mistake that could mean higher costs for those seeking treatment.
“Health services typically cost the user much more when they’re provided in a private setting and that means Albertans looking for help to start a family may have to pay more to do so,” vice president James Hart said.
The Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM) is a private fertility clinic that opened in Edmonton last year and is the city’s only other fertility clinic.
According to PCRM’s website, the cost for IVF is $7,000, $9,500 for ICSI and IVF together and $10,700 for an egg donation cycle. All the costs include a $1,000 lab fee.
Dr. Tarek Motan works at the fertility clinic at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women and specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. He says the cost for IVF treatment at the clinic is $5,800, ICSI and IVF together costs $7,300 and an egg donation cycle costs $8,300.
AHS officials said they will work with patients to move them to a private clinic — in Edmonton, Calgary or outside the province — in a timely fashion and make the transition as seamless as possible.
“Albertans expect us to use their taxpayer dollars in the most responsible way,” AHS said in a statement on its website.
“Given the significant patient demand for insured fertility services, it has become increasingly challenging for AHS to contribute public resources, such as space and equipment, for privately funded non-insured services, especially as wait lists for publicly funded services continue to grow and the need for new services expands.”
The PCRM said in a statement it will work with AHS staff to ensure patient transitions occur in a safe and expeditious manner.
“It’s my understanding that the physicians who are practicing there have decided to move to another clinic,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said Friday.
“Our twin boys were conceived because of the care, compassion and knowledge that the clinic staff showed us, particularly Dr. Motan and nurse Heather,” Fabjanovich said. “Without them, we would not have our beautiful family.
“It saddens me that other families may not know this kind of joy.”
With files from Karen Bartko and Caley Ramsay