Victorian Govt Backflips on IVF Ban

Victorian Govt Backflips on IVF Ban
An embryologist shows an Ovocyte after it was inseminated in Virginia, the United States, on June 12, 2019. (Ivan CouronneI/AFP/Getty Images)
Alfred Bui

Prospective parents are raising their hopes again after the Victorian government backflipped on its decision to reverse a ban on most IVF treatments as the Omicron COVID-19 wave progresses.

James Merlino, the Victorian acting health minister, announced that some services would resume from Jan. 20. Meanwhile, hospitals are ramping up their operations to ensure the restart of IVF procedures from 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 25.

Authorities had originally contacted IVF clinics in early January to cancel appointments in an effort to hold off on elective surgeries to deal with the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalisations.

However, the restriction on IVF treatments received heavy criticism from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, state Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, IVF clinics, patients and the community. In addition, an online petition against the ban collected nearly 140,000 signatures.

Merlino and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews have also made a public apology for causing distress with the IVF ban.

"There's a process going on at the moment to review the advice and a number of other day surgery and day procedures. So, hopefully, I can make some announcements next week to add to that list," Andrews told reporters.

According to Merlino, since the workforce's specialist nature, facilities and equipment were not currently crucial in responding to the pandemic, the chief health officer advised him that the government could lift restrictions on IVF procedures.

The health department will collaborate with the Royal Women's Hospital to ensure that priority is given to urgent patients and that the hospital's resources for COVID-19 patients are not subject to any impact from the changes.

 Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino speaks to the media at a press conference in Melbourne, Australia, on June 18, 2021. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino speaks to the media at a press conference in Melbourne, Australia, on June 18, 2021. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Tiana Clayworth, 28, who has undergone seven IVF treatments since 2020 after testing results showed that she and her partner could only conceive with the help of reproductive technology said the ban on the treatments had been a blow.

"I'd started all that build-up. It was a blow to stop," she told AAP.

The Melbourne prospective mother was preparing for another treatment cycle when the clinic notified her that the government had paused all IVF procedures and she said she had suffered emotional trauma from the interruption, on top of the typical trials associated with each procedure.

Clayworth is lucky though as she will now be able to resume the treatment in the next few weeks according to her plan.

Luk Rombauts, Monash IVF medical director and president of Australia and New Zealand's Fertility Society, said that one in seven couples have problems with conception, and only one percent of the patients can access services during the pause.

Patients exempted from the ban were those who had already taken IVF drugs before Jan. 6, and those about to have chemotherapy, a cancer treatment capable of destroying egg reserves.

Rombauts said that women who had already frozen their eggs could start the procedure straight away. This means the two-week pause will not result in patient backlogs.

Melbourne IVF medical director Fleur Cattrall welcomed the reversal, and he said that an ongoing ban could take away the chance to have a baby from some Victorians.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said no such ban should ever have occurred in the beginning.

Alfred Bui is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on local and business news. He is a former small business owner and has two master’s degrees in business and business law. Contact him at [email protected].