The provincial government of Quebec is fulfilling its promise to provide IVF treatment, with the service becoming available on 5 August 2010. Prospective patients are already lining up to register for the programme, but specialists warn the government's plan is premature and ill thought-out.
Since the announcement, the McGill Reproductive Centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal has reportedly been flooded with calls from prospective patients. However, clinics are still awaiting specific guidelines from the government, so are currently unable to put patients on waiting lists.
The government has announced it will fund three IVF attempts per couple and women will be prioritised according to their age and type of fertility problem. The Health Ministry of Quebec expects to provide 3,500 cycles of treatment this year, for a budget of $32 million. The figure is expected to rise to 7,000 by 2014, costing up to $64 million.
But medical specialists have warned Quebec's resources are currently too thin to cope with the project.
'This network is at its limits today. We live crisis after crisis in this province in terms of neonatology and this program will have the consequence of, in multiple ways, increasing the burden in this sector', said Dr Gaetan Barrette, president of the Federation of Quebec Specialists to CTV Montreal.
Doctors working in reproductive medicine say the provincial government needs to hire more specialists, otherwise people seeking treatment will risk facing backlogs and delays.
'Right now we are missing 60 to 70 gynaecologists in the province just to follow normal pregnancies. We do not have enough specialists in fertility in the province to follow all those patients', said Dr Robert Sabbah, vice-president of the Quebec Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Medical ethicist Professor Margaret Somerville, told CTV Montreal that the Health Ministry needs to consider equity in an already strained healthcare system. 'Whenever we allocate money in healthcare, we allocate to something from and away from something else', she said.