Jessica Penney and her family are awaiting funding for IVF treatment, which Health Secretary John Haggie said would come in “weeks” in August. (Aamie Gillam Photography / Submitted by Jessica Penney)
Newfoundland and Labrador families who have to travel for in vitro fertilization treatment are still waiting for funding promised months ago – and some wonder if it will ever arrive.
NL is one of only two provinces without their own IVF clinic, forcing anyone in need of the treatment to spend thousands of dollars traveling to places like Halifax, Calgary, and Toronto.
During the provincial elections earlier this year, the Liberal Party released a statement promising that funding would come “in close proximity” for those needing to travel for IVF. In August, Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister John Haggie said a funding package would be announced Within weeks.
Two months later this funding is still pending.
Jessica Penney, a St. John’s woman planning to begin IVF treatment in Calgary, has been waiting for travel funding since the announcement. She said the lack of news was “completely disheartening”.
“I think that [the commitment] was a tactic to just silence people, “she said in an interview with CBC News.” Until you see numbers, it really doesn’t mean anything. “
Ledon Wellon said that people in Newfoundland and Labrador seeking IVF treatment are “putting their lives on hold” and awaiting funding. (Jeremy Eaton / CBC)
Penney said travel expenses for IVF treatment can be as high as $ 30,000, including flights, medication, treatment plans, hotel rooms, rental cars, food, and other expenses. The procedure is not covered by the provincial medical care plan. Penney and her husband would also have to take three weeks off.
“It’s a huge, huge price,” she said.
Penney wants an IVF clinic in Newfoundland and Labrador so families don’t have to travel to other provinces at all. She said it was “devastating” to see the province’s population decline while IVF treatment remains inaccessible to many.
“People who want to bring children to our province have absolutely no support,” she said. “They’re driving people out of the province because they aren’t getting the fertility treatments or access they need to build our province.”
CBC has contacted the Department of Health and Community Services for comment.
“A time-sensitive topic”
Penney and her husband aren’t the only ones in Newfoundland and Labrador waiting to receive funding for an IVF treatment trip.
Fertility services advocate Ledon Wellon created the Faces of Fertility Facebook page in May 2020 to share the stories of people in Newfoundland and Labrador struggling with infertility.
After five years of treatments and operations, Wellon is now nine months pregnant. Although IVF didn’t work in her case, she hasn’t stopped advocating for access to treatment in the province.
Wellon says she receives multiple messages each week from people who need to travel outside of Newfoundland and Labrador for IVF treatment but don’t have the resources.
In August, Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister John Haggie said a funding package for those traveling from the province for IVF treatment but did not provide details. (Patrick Butler / Radio Canada)
“People are really, really desperate, waiting for any amount of money they can get from the government just to help us out,” she said. “The government is talking about increasing our population, but it is not helping us.”
Wellon said people put their lives on hold waiting for funding to travel for an IVF treatment only to dash their hopes when that funding didn’t show up.
“Why promise it at all when you just want to disappoint so many people?” She asked. “It’s a time-sensitive topic for almost everyone who deals with it, and the long waiting times just don’t help.”
Penney said she wasn’t sure what to do if funding doesn’t come out soon.
“You cannot rely on the government to make your decisions. You just have to plan what you are going to do or you will wait forever,” she said.