More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for the the P.E.I. government to recruit a new fertility specialist with the impending departure of the Island’s only one.
'How do you save $12,000 when you're travelling to Halifax once or twice a month?' - Lindsay Andrews
For 25 years, Dr. Bev Brodie has been the Island’s only fertility doctor. Next month she will move to Calgary for personal reasons.
Brodie told CBC News Wednesday she feels lucky to have been able to have run her practice in the province, when the province has many other medical priorities.
She said infertility on the Island, as in all other places, is a big issue.
"Infertility affects probably one in five couples, so I'm terrifically busy over the years," said Brodie.
Brodie also lamented the high cost of treatment for patients. While some services are covered, in-vitro fertilization is not, and can cost $12,000 per attempt.
"It's not a medical decision any more, it's a financial decision, for people when they're deciding what to do, so it's unfortunate," she said.
Those costs for Islanders will go up without Brodie or another specialist practising on the Island. Brodie was not performing IVF on the Island, but was providing many other services done in advance and as follow up to IVF. Her absence will mean many more trips to the mainland for patients.
Lindsay Andrews and Rhonda Lee Hakkers are both patients of Brodie's and they worry how they will continue.
“Without her, there's no hope for people that suffer with infertility,” said Hakkers.
Hakkers already had one a successful IVF treatment with the help of Brodie in 2012. She gave birth to a son. Part of the reason she was able to afford the treatment was because so much of the work could be done on P.E.I.
“How do you save $12,000 when you're travelling to Halifax once or twice a month for these tiny little procedures that should be done in our own province?” she said.
Andrews said she has more than 1,000 signatures on her petition.
“I've never expected it to have this much support,” she said.
“If we get together and form a group, we can make this happen.”
Brodie said it will be difficult to recruit a replacement - she noted the province is already trying to recruit two general practice gynecologists - but she was also pleased to see such strong support for the petition. She said it signifies a change in attitudes towards infertility.
"The problem with infertility patients is that they used to be a silent minority of people," she said.
"They were ashamed and they didn't want to talk about it, for some reason, but that's the way it was. And so the government, I guess, perceived that there wasn't a problem out there."
Health PEI's medical affairs director Nadeem Dada said in the short term, other Island physicians may be able to provide some minor help to Brodie's patients.
Dada said in the long term the province may try to recruit a new fertility specialist, though he cautioned that likely won't be an easy task.
“It's difficult to attract people, particularly if they're solo practices,” he said. “And it's a specialty area, so we'll have to look at how that aligns with what we can offer here.”