The rollout of free IVF this autumn is only a “first step”, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has promised.
The HSE will pay for one round of IVF for eligible couples - the first time in the history of the State the fertility treatment has been available for free.
Speaking to The Hard Shoulder, Minister Donnelly described IVF as “not affordable for too many people” with some spending up to €10,000 on the treatment.
“This will be coming in from September,” he said.
“It’s important to say it’s a first step - I believe we will do more and we can talk about that.”
The policy will cost the State €10 million a year and was originally a commitment in the 2020 Programme for Government.
“I committed in the budget last year we would bring it in, we aimed to have it in in September,” he said.
“There has been a vast amount of work [done because] this is a new service we’re setting up.
“Ultimately, where we’re moving to is a publicly run service.
“We have a national centre in Cork next year - they will be doing about 500 IVF cycles.
“But I wasn’t satisfied to wait the several years it would take the HSE to fully scale up.
“So, what I committed to doing was using private capacity, so that from this September we could get as much support to as many couples as possible.
“That really is what today is about.”
The eligibility criteria were drawn up by an expert group who were asked to determine 'how do you do the most good for the most number of people?'
“So, they wanted to make sure that the eligibility criteria were for those who had the highest chances,” Minister Donnelly said.
“They looked around the world, they looked very closely at the UK, other countries in Europe and so what they came back with were various criteria.
“For women in terms of age, it’s those up to and including 40-years-of age.
“For men, up to 60.
“A body mass index for the women of 18.5 to 30 - that’s very similar to the NHS, Sweden and other countries around the world.”
Minister Donnelly said he would keep a “very open mind” about expanding the eligibility in the future.
“This is a first step and Ireland is behind the curve in terms of providing these services,” he said.
“So, for example, there’s a group for donor assisted IVF who are not yet included - they will be included… Is it possible that the BMI will change based on new clinical evidence?
“All of those things are possible. We have to start somewhere.”
Main image: Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Picture by: Leah Farrell/RollingNews