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Australian fertility clinic loses embryos during power outage

30 September 2016
Appeared in BioNews 871

Twelve families in South Australia have lost embryos after a power outage compromised the incubators that the embryos were being stored in.

The embryos were being prepared for transfer in incubators at the Flinders Fertility private clinic when a storm caused widespread damage to the area, leading to a power cut. Although the clinic had its own generators, these also failed an hour after the power outage had started.

'Despite every effort by our scientists, the embryos are no longer viable,' said Flinders Fertility chief executive officer, Stefan Moro. 'This is a devastating situation for our patients, and very distressing for our staff.' He added that the clinic had contacted patients directly and were offering support and counselling.

The hospital Flinders Fertility is located in was also affected by the power outage, and a number of patients needed to be transferred to another hospital during the power outage.

'For our life-saving equipment, so ventilators and so on, they have a battery back-up which lasts for a couple of hours,' Jack Snelling, Minister for Health in South Australia, told ABC Adelaide. 'We took the precautionary step of moving those intensive care patients into Flinders Private, where they did have power because their back-up generator was working.'

The hospital's generator had been checked two days before the power outage, as part of preparations for the storm. The staff of the private fertility clinic were contacted when the generator failed and arrived within 20 minutes.

'But without power, there was nothing they could do to save those embryos,' Snelling said, adding that Flinders Fertility has offered the patients new rounds of treatment at no cost and that 'they will be prioritised as well'.

The clinic said that cryopreserved material was unaffected by the power outage.

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