Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Funding IVF in Ontario; The Time is Now

It was with pleasure that I read Loribeth's post the other day. She discussed Canada's Governor General, Mr. David Johnston, in her post "Hey, the GG has a clue!" and referenced an article that recently appeared in the Star. In his first official visit to Queen's Park, our GG urged Ontario to act on adoption and infertility, "imploring MPPs to make it easier for women to get pregnant and for families to adopt children."

In 2008, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals asked Mr. Johnston to head up the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption. For those who may not know, I was one of the hundreds of people interviewed by the panel. I told my story, in detail. At the time, I was about 10 weeks pregnant after our only IVF cycle at McGill in Montreal. And yes, I told them that the reason I chose to go to Montreal and not the Ottawa Fertility Centre, was, at that time, mainly financial.

The panel's report is Raising Expectations, and among its recommendations are the following:

  • Create a provincial adoption agency.
  • Develop tools to manage the adoption system.
  • Provide adequate funding that supports the realities of adoption.

Assisted Reproduction

  • All Ontarians should know how to protect their fertility. (discusses education, counselling, fertility testing and monitoring)
  • Assisted reproduction services should be safe and meet the highest, evidence-based standards. (discusses accreditation, multiple births, safety, timeliness)
  • Ontario cannot afford not to fund assisted reproduction (discusses what should be funded, including fertility medication and counselling)
  • Ontarians who could benefit should have access to assisted reproduction services. (discusses work life, geographic access, legal and social barriers, fertility preservation, and HIV discordant couples)

And it recommends that there is a need to raise awareness about family building options in Ontario.

(Read the executive summary. // Read the full report [index]).

As the head of that Expert Panel, it is David Johnston's signature on the documentation submitted to the Ontario Health Minister, Deb Matthews, for further review... and hopefully, action. However, as of yet, we've seen none.

In the 15 months since that report was submitted, there's been very little in the media, in the way of discussion, and certainly, there's been even less action. As Loribeth said, David Johnston's discussion at Queen's Park "is a welcome reminder and endorsement from a high-profile Canadian."

A few months ago, in the Ottawa Citizen, there was an article entitled "High Cost of IVF stalls funding in Ontario." It cited Ontario's Health Minister, Deb Matthews, in that article as the person making that statement. In response, I wrote to Minister Matthews. Yet again, I told my story. I reminded her that without the finances behind us, I would be in the position of never having a child and never being able to carry on my family's name. Never giving my parents a grandchild to love and hold and dote upon. And I urged her to move forward with the recommendations.

I actually got a letter back from Ms. Matthews last week. In it, she thanked me kindly for contacting her. She congratulated me on the birth of Petite. But the majority of her letter focused on the fact that much study and review still needs to be done.

You know something? The studies have been done. Governments at various levels have already put a ton of money into ensuring that studies were done, and done correctly, and that due consideration was given to their recommendations. Those recommendations have now been put forth and let me be clear: they are unanimous.



There's always going to be a desire to do 'more studies' and 'more reflection'. That's the nature of the beast with such a complex decision. However, while the recommendations of the Expert Panel languish on some bureaucrat's desk, people like me are desperately searching for ways to fund their family-building methods, or frantically trying to find their way around the adoption-go-round.

It's long past time that our government helped us. It's long past time to change the fact that residents of other provinces get preferential treatment and access to help not afforded to the province that I choose to live in. (Make no mistake, it is a choice that can be revoked.)

This year, Quebec saw the light and now funds up to three cycles of IVF treatments. I hear that the increase in clients at McGill is exponential. I expect to be met with a sea of faces when I go back next week to talk to our doctor about trying to have a second child. In addition to Quebec's decision, Manitoba took action as well. That province stepped up, offering maximum amount for those undergoing treatments.

So do I need to move to another province to get treatment? Do people in one or two provinces merit assistance and none of the rest of us do? Right across the river from where I live is Gatineau. It's in Quebec. Do I need to move less than five kilometres in order to have my next IVF funded? Believe me, Gatineau is very close to my home. I can, literally, see the province of Quebec from my doorstep. I've seriously considered making that move.

In 2009 (on the day Petite was born in fact, August 27, 2009), Premier Dalton McGuinty said that he believes the Ontario government should be in the baby-making business. Understandably, he indicated that there must be consideration for assistance, and that maybe the government would first have to move on low-cost recommendations or phase in changes over time. At that time, NDP Leader, Andrea Horwatch urged the government to implement the Expert Panel's recommendations, reminding us that "Infertility is often an embarrassing and painful issue for thousands of women, while adoption is costly and takes years to go through the process. We need bold action from the McGuinty government to help these women and families across Ontario become parents."

And then, a couple of days ago, the whole issue was brought to the forefront again. A federal Liberal candidate, Mr. David Bertschi, knocked on my door. When he did, Hubby answered. Hubby said, "I have no questions, but I'm sure my wife has something to ask you." I picked up Petite, carried her to the front door, and said to him, "Do you see this little girl?" He nodded and smiled at her (seriously, she's so cute, how could he not?). I stated, "She is the direct result of six years of infertility treatments, more than $30,000 and one IVF cycle that gave us a miracle. While I was pregnant, I was part of the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption. The recommendations have been presented to the government. It's time to act. And I really don't think I should have to take out a second mortgage to do it." We chatted for a few moments, and I gave him the address to this blog.

Let's hope Mr. Bertschi sees this blog. Let's hope he sees and maybe gets to meet some of you, my sisters and brothers in infertility, who fight alongside me day after day, year after year, hoping that things will change. We want change for us, yes. That's true. But also for the many that come behind us.

All I can say is I'm glad I'm not waiting around for any government to help me. If I wait for someone in Queen's Park to make a move on this, I'll be well over the age limit by the time they get around to me. And if that's the way that governments assist their constituents, we certainly have a long way to go.


loribeth said...

Well, thank you for the shoutout. : ) And I totally & completely agree with you. It's so frustrating that more than a year has gone by with absolutely NO visible progress on this issue, after all the work & thought that went into that report. :(

Kakunaa said...

It is always fascinating to me to see the way IF treatments are, well, treated in other countries. I hope that Ontario gets the funding. And, the fact that ANY provinces have coverage is yet another reason I am a fan of Canada.