The Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert has announced a review of the province's publicly funded IVF program in light of rising costs, but has made assurances that provincial funding will not be cut.
Mr Hébert said he does not wish to open up the question of public funding for IVF, but wants to look at the management of the system, as well as certain ethical issues.
The cost of the program has skyrocketed since it was introduced in 2010, costing the Quebec province about C$60 million a year. 'Perhaps it is time to revisit the money paid to private clinics which deliver the treatments. These are questions that we are examining at the Ministry of Health', Mr Hébert told the Globe and Mail.
The review will also examine the screening processes, which has attracted recent media attention. In one reported case, the McGill Reproductive Centre had to place a baby in the care of the province's youth protection agency after the mother was found to be unfit to keep the baby. 'This was one example of a problem that indicated that new standards may be required', Mr Hébert said.
The Minister confirmed that several dozen groups, specialists, professional associations, women's rights groups and private clinic operators have been asked to appear before Quebec's Health and Welfare Commissioner Robert Salois. In his review of the program, Mr Salois also has the mandate to compare the Quebec program to what exists in other countries, as well as in other provinces, and examine the laws that oversee assisted reproduction and the fertility services offered to women.
The public has until 20 June 2013 to make their submissions and the review of the program is scheduled to be completed later this year, with proposed changes expected to be made public early next year.
Meanwhile, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that public funding of IVF in Quebec had resulted in a significant change in the characteristics of those receiving IVF services. The researchers compared patients who sought treatment before and after the province of Quebec began to fund up to three cycles of IVF in August 2010 and found larger numbers of lower income, less well-educated, unemployed people seeking fertility treatment. Further work examining whether public funding has resulted in changes in access for persons in same-sex relations and for single women is planned.