Call for more IVF funding to reduce long wait times

Fertility doctors are calling for a much needed boost in funding for publicly available IVF.

Current wait times for treatment are between 12 and 18 months, and demand has increased 20% this year.

"The funding hasn't really kept up with the increase in demand," according to Dr Guy Gudex from Repromed, a clinic that provides publicly funded IVF.

"We last got a significant increase in funding in 2006, which is over 15 years ago. That was to allow couples to have a second treatment cycle."

Gudex says about $15 million is spent on fertility treatment annually, and just another four or five million a year would significantly reduce wait times.

"I think you could bring it down to nine months. Nine months would make a huge difference, particularly for people who are older," he says.

Currently the cut off for eligibility is 40, and there isn't a priority for women on the wait list who are nearing that age.

"To wait a year for your treatment when you're 38 or 39 can be quite stressful," Gudex says.

Another problem with the current system is couples with unexplained fertility have to wait five years before being eligible for treatment.

That's what happened to Gauri Puranik, who after five years of unsuccessful fertility treatment and a miscarriage, was put on the public waitlist.

It was 18 months before she began her first round of IVF and eventually had the baby girl she had so desperately wanted.

"To be honest, I have had some terrible times. I have been through quite a bit of counselling during the process," Gauri says.

"It was never an easy journey at all. Because every cycle, every period is a grief. It is very hard to explain it to anyone."

Her husband, Apurv Puranik, says he would like to see couples who need IVF fast-tracked so they don't suffer like they did.

"It's been very difficult. We always faced a chance of being childless and it is very hard to make your partner understand that," Apurv says.

"What they go through emotionally is very hard to deal with. It's like a denial of motherhood, which causes a lot of upset."

"I had Gauri, but I lost her as my wife to be honest. Because she would only talk about the child and IVF."

The long wait list means many couples try and access IVF privately, but that can be costly.

"It can easily be $12,000 and then if you need micro injections that adds a couple thousand dollars. Then that starts creeping up to $14,000," Gudex says.

1News asked Te Whatu Ora whether there would be an increase in funding to fertility services.

The agency says it must balance and prioritise government funding for health services so it is sustainable in the long term.

It says people who meet the threshold for publicly funded care are able to get two rounds of IVF treatment.

Te Whatu Ora also says the system is used to ensure fairness and transparency, and that services are provided to people with the greatest need.

It added that the wait time acts, in part, to reduce the risk of over-intervention.


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