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Waitemata Health Board Denies Babies Life

1 July 2002

Waitemata Health Board Denies Babies Possibility Of Life

More than 100 babies will not be born in Auckland next year if the Waitemata Health Board carries out its threat to slash public funding of fertility treatment.

The New Zealand Infertility Society has been informed that the Waitemata District Health Board intends to reduce and then exit its contract for the provision of Artificial Reproductive Technology Services.

Society executive officer Robyn Scott says the society was “stunned” to receive a copy of a letter to Fertility Associates informing them of the board’s intention to exit fertility services as a means to manage its budget deficit.

“We cannot believe the Minister of Health would allow them to take this step.

“The WDHB announcement comes directly following our Infertility Awareness Week in which the Minister of Health publicly acknowledged that the single public funded cycle of fertility treatment, to which couples with infertility problems are currently entitled, was discriminatory. And now the WDHB wants to deny them even that. It is truly unbelievable.”

Mrs Scott said it had taken many years to achieve nationally consistent access for fertility treatment funding through the Priority Criteria scoring system which exists today.

There was a breakthrough in August 2000 when the Health Funding Authority approved an additional $3.7 million to fund fertility treatment taking the total annual budget to $6 million.

Under the agreement, one cycle of IVF or other appropriate treatment, is funded for people who meet a certain points criteria. The HFA said at the time that people who meet the criteria should receive the treatment within six months, no matter where they live.

“The society, while disappointed the Government did not follow Australia’s example where unlimited treatment is available, applauded the decision to make fertility services ‘core elective services’, recognising the important of treatment for infertility in the same way as other aspects of reproductive health and therefore ensuring the newly elected District Health Boards could not opt out.”

And yet, she says, this appears to be just what Waitemata is trying to do.

“They can’t balance their books so their solution is to deny people their right to have a family – an estimated 105 babies a year in the WDHB’s area will not be born to parents who desperately want them because of this arbitrary decision,” Mrs Scott says.

During Infertility Awareness Week (June 8 – 15) the Minister of Health announced $1 million funding to clear a backlog of people wanting treatment in Canterbury.

The Minister said, “We will then have no more than a six month wait for people who need infertility treatment right around New Zealand”.

“But now WDHB wants to destroy the hopes of people living in their district and put the clock back on the equity of health services they rightfully should expect,” Mrs Scott says.

Infertility affects ordinary New Zealanders, Mrs Scott says. One in six couples are affected by infertility at some time in their lives.

“Infertility is not a lifestyle choice; is a chronic disability with profound psychological effects.

“The effect of the WDHB ceasing to fund treatment would be that all those who cannot afford private treatment would be condemned to a life of involuntary childlessness. It is imperative that funding for these services is accessible and fairly distributed in the same way other health services are shared by New Zealanders.”


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