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No Chance Of Speedy Action On Fertility Policy

Media Release

16 April 2004

No Chance Of Speedy Action On Fertility Policy

New Zealand First health spokesperson Barbara Stewart has repeated her call for the Government to revise its funding policy for fertility treatment and pay for two IVF cycles for couples who agree to the implantation of only one embryo at a time.

“Present policy is to fund one cycle of IVF for eligible couples. This results in the implantation of multiple embryos in an attempt to maximise the chances of success, which in turn increases the likelihood of adverse results for the mother and babies as many multiple births are premature.

“Care for premature babies is expensive, approximately $80,000 for a baby born at 28 weeks. The head of Wellington Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit said at the beginning of the year that about a third of the babies in the unit were from IVF treatments and that restricting the number of embryos implanted would save money by reducing pressure on the units, said Mrs Stewart.

The Government spends $10,000 providing one IVF cycle with the resulting risk of multiple births rather than taking the safer option of funding two cycles and restricting implantation to one embryo each time.

“In an attempt to find out whether the Government intended to change its policy, the Minister of Health was asked the following question: Does the Health Department have any plans to fund more than one cycle of IVF treatment per couple; if so, when will these plans be made public?

“The response was a masterpiece of waffle: ‘The possibility of funding more than one cycle of IVF treatment is one of a range of proposals being considered by the Government. This process involves a thorough examination of the merits of proposals in comparison with the whole range of other proposals, and consultation and discussion on these between Ministers and their respective officials.’

“It appears that there is no danger that common sense is going to prevail in the Health Ministry any time soon,” said Mrs Stewart.


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