The Government says it will fund IVF treatment for couples who struggle to have children from next year, Extra.ie can reveal.
Ireland is the only country in the EU that does not publicly fund IVF treatment. But Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed the Coalition is advancing legislation that will pave the way for State-funded treatment in 2023.
Writing in this week’s Mail on Sunday, the minister says: ‘We are progressing legislation on Assisted Human Reproduction that will enable us to introduce publicly funded IVF treatment. This is something I would like to introduce in 2023.’
The Government says it will fund IVF treatment for couples who struggle to have children from next year, Extra.ie can reveal. Pic: Shutterstock
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 have several rounds of treatment with a bill of tens of thousands of euro.
Speaking to the MoS directly about his initiative, Mr Donnelly said confirmation of the IVF funding target date for next year is ‘the most explicit statement of intent yet’, but he added that ‘securing a start in 2023 is subject to budgetary discussions and the estimates process’.
Asked about the funding that will be available, a spokesman for Mr Donnelly said he ‘does not yet have specific figures’.
The spokesman added: ‘He has clear objectives, although much needs to be worked through with officials and clinicians.’
The minister confirmed the move to fund IVF treatment as he announced in the article a series of measures to improve women’s healthcare.
Mr Donnelly has not yet indicated how much funding will be made available. Pic: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos
He confirmed free contraception will be made available to women between the age of 17 and 25 from August. And he has vowed to eliminate waiting lists for gynaecological procedures by the end of year. In January Extra.ie revealed more than 30,000 women are awaiting their first hospital appointment to diagnose gynaecological disorders.
To combat the massive waiting list, Mr Donnelly said the Government plans to more than double the nine existing ‘see and treat’ clinics, which aim to provide same-day assessment and treatment of women ‘who would previously have had multiple visits to different parts of the health service’.
The minister writes: ‘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.’
He also said the Coalition plans to open five more publicly funded menopause clinics by the end of the year – two more in Dublin to add to the specialist facility that opened at Holles Street last December, and ‘one each in Cork, Galway and Limerick’.
Ireland is the only country in the EU that does not publicly fund IVF treatment. Pic: Shutterstock
Support groups who have been calling for publicly funded IVF treatment welcomed the minister’s commitment to provide State financial backing for couples by next year.
A spokesman for the National Infertility Support and Information Group told the MoS: ‘We welcome Mr Donnelly’s commitment to progressing this legislation later this year and look forward to engaging with him on it. IVF and other fertility treatments place a huge financial burden on people at a very vulnerable and stressful time of their lives.
‘The AHR [Assisted Human Reproduction] legislation is long overdue and welcome in terms of bringing Ireland in line with other European norms and indeed regulating a modern fertility treatment system for a modern Ireland.’
Pressure has been mounting on the Government to end Ireland’s status as the only country in the EU not funding IVF.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed the Coalition is advancing legislation that will pave the way for State-funded treatment in 2023. Pic: Shutterstock
Twelve member states pay for up to six cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI), according to the European Fertility Atlas, which was 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 assist fertilisation, and 35 partly fund it.
Overall, Ireland was placed 40th out of 43 nations for access to fertility treatment, with only Belarus, Ukraine and Turkey ranking lower.
Women who have had IVF said last night that State funding would make ‘a massive difference’ to many couples.
Antonia Fleeton, from Co.Meath, had five unsuccessful cycles of IVF before she finally conceived her daughter, forcing her into ‘a huge amount of debt’.
Ms Fleeton told the MoS: ‘To have Government funding, even for one or two cycles, I think would make a massive difference.’
In a Seanad debate on the issue last year, Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh said the Government was failing couples who could not afford IVF as she revealed she had to have five cycles.
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.’