Fianna Fáil Senators Fiona O’Loughlin and Catherine Ardagh have urged the Department of Health to support the rollout of IVF treatment through public hospitals. 

Speaking in the Seanad today alongside party colleague Senator Catherine Ardagh, Senator O’Loughlin commented, “The World Health Organisation is very clear that infertility is a disease and should be treated as such, with absolute support. In Ireland, those that cannot conceive naturally, and we all know those who have gone through the grief and the heartbreak of trying to start their own family and not being able to, they get very little, or no support within the public health system. 

“Those in need of IVF and other fertility programmes find themselves paying between €6000-€10,000 a cycle. At the moment, fertility drugs are only covered by the Drugs Payment Scheme or a medical card and private patients can claim tax relief, but that is it and that is just on fertility drugs. 

“The State absolutely needs to help, not just with costs, but medically, so that there is continuity of care. 

“In 2017 the then Government approved a bill which laid out regulation and need for establishment of a regulatory body and then in 2019 gave more detail on model of care, but nothing has happened since. The Minister for Health has confirmed additional funding and supports and opening of fertility hubs in Budget 2021. We need a functional and fair state-sponsored system of supporting infertility as we need to be able to determine criteria and eligibility.” 

Senator Ardagh commented, “The statistics, as we know, show that infertility effects 1 in 6 couples and it effects both men and women equally. Having lived through the highs and lows of five IVF cycles the worry, the waiting, the failures, the pain, I strongly believe that the State simply does not do enough to support couples facing this challenge. I was one of the lucky ones to be able to afford cycles and eventually we hit the jackpot. There are so many people out there who simply cannot and there are so many who cannot afford one cycle, let alone several and there are so many who spend every single penny they have on IVF and sometimes it ends unsuccessfully. 

“The cost of IVF in Ireland can start at €4500, but realistically with blood tests and consultations can end up near €10,000. 

Senator Ardagh continued: “In 2019, Minister Harris set out a very ambitious roadmap for services in this country, in which the first step was going to your GP, the second step was going to a newly-established regional fertility hub and the third step was the provision of IVF. The problem with this scheme was that he only allocated €2m to it and clearly €2m does not go far enough. So, what we’re looking for today is a properly funded public health IVF scheme. 

“The assisted reproduction Bill goes some way in providing safeguards for patients in the form of regulation. Fertility clinics in Ireland are regulated by the Health Product Regulatory Authority, but there is still no body that oversees the fertility industry generally and there is massive need for improvement in this bill due to the changes in genetics and modern medicine. 

Senator Ardagh added: “People who are desperate to have a child are the most vulnerable and hugely open to exploitation. They are facing mental, physical and relationship challenges and on top of it all, huge financial barriers.”