Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc says the program will save the government up to $30 million a year in treatment provided to premature babies. ((CBC))

Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc says the province is going ahead with a plan to fully fund in vitro fertility treatments for women.

The province will fund up to three cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments by the end of the spring, Bolduc said Thursday during a news conference in Montreal.

Bolduc said he is happy to be able to give this gift to couples trying to conceive, but he said it will also save the province up to $30 million a year on money being spent to treat premature babies born as a result of fertility treatments.

The plan will include regulations limiting to three the number of embryos that can be implanted in a woman’s womb during one cycle of treatment — a move that will help reduce the number of multiple births, said Bolduc.

The program will cost $32 million its first year, but funding will increase to $80 million in the next three to four years, Bolduc said.

Currently, about 2,000 cycles are performed in the province on an annual basis at a cost of roughly $10,000 per treatment.

With the new program, the number of cycles being performed could jump to 10,000, according to government estimates.

The regulations are expected to be published soon in the province’s Official Gazette and will go into effect following a 45-day consultation period.

The move follows through on a promise made by Premier Jean Charest during the 2008 provincial election campaign.

Currently, Quebec offers a 50 per cent tax credit for IVF treatments.

Costly treatment

The news was welcomed by Quebecer Michael Kriaa.

Kriaa and his girlfriend have already spent $23,000 trying to conceive through insemination and in vitro treatments — without any luck.

Now that the government will foot the bill for some treatments, he said it may actually improve their chance of success.

"The more the stress factor is up — it's actually proven that's it's worse for conceiving," he said. "So, the fact that the stress factor for the money is going to be taken [by] the government is actually very, very good news."

Bolduc made the announcement at the McGill University Health Centre Reproductive Centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital, which currently performs about half of the IVF treatments in the province.

He also announced an investment of $2 million to update and renovate the facility.