British Columbia

Advocates say in-vitro fertilization should be publicly funded in B.C.

A new B.C. mom and dad are calling for the provincial government to cover the costs of fertility treatments for those struggling with infertility.

'There's nothing harder than wanting to start a family and not being able to,' says new father

Shaun and Juvarya Veltkamp and baby Blaise are celebrating their first Family Day together. Juvarya became pregnant with Blaise after five rounds of in vitro fertilization treatments. (Christer Waara/CBC)

A B.C. couple is thrilled to spend their first Family Day with their new baby and now, they're calling on the province to make it easier for other B.C. couples to do the same.

New parents Juvarya and Shaun Veltkamp were able to conceive their baby, Blaise, with the help of in-vitro fertilization at a private clinic, but they say the prohibitive costs are a barrier for many couples.

They're calling for the provincial government to cover the cost of IVF treatments.

Juvarya Veltkamp, who started the advocacy group IVF4BC, says infertility should be treated as a medical condition like any other.

"When you hear what all the diagnoses are [that cause infertility], you think, oh yes, this is a disease," said Veltkamp.

Cost up to six-figures

A single round of IVF can cost anywhere between $7,000 to $9,000 plus additional thousands for required medications. Sometimes, conceiving can take multiple rounds of treatments.

For baby Blaise, Juvarya and her husband Shaun say they spent somewhere around six figures for their treatments. After four years, five rounds of treatment and a donor egg, Veltkamp was able to conceive.

"Everytime we needed a treatment, we had to open up our pocketbook," she said. "That is out of reach for most people."

Four years and five IVF treatments later, Jurvarya Veltcamp was able to conceive baby Blaise. (Christer Waara/CBC)

The couple took out loans and used savings to pay for the treatments. Husband Shaun took on extra projects at work.

"You're already going through a lot of emotional stress and the physical burden of the treatments and then you add this," she said.

Shaun said the most challenging thing are the misconceptions around infertility.

"The biggest thing is that it's such a taboo subject and nobody wants to speak about it. They feel like it makes them feel inferior or like there's something wrong with them which can lead to depression and anxiety," he said.

"There's nothing harder than wanting to start a family and not being able to."

Other provinces help with IVF

Only a few provinces have funding options for those looking for fertility treatments.

Manitoba and New Brunswick have tax credits for fertility treatments. Quebec became the first province to fully cover fertility treatments in 2010, but drastically cut back the services it would cover in late 2015. Ontario announced it would publicly fund up to one cycle of fertility treatments in 2015.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson from B.C.'s Ministry of Health acknowledged many people have difficulty conceiving and pointed out B.C.'s health plan covers a variety of medical procedures to identify causes of infertility.

She also pointed out the cost of artificial insemination performed at a doctor's office is covered under the plan, but not sperm retrieval, preparation, examination or testing of a sample to be used in the insemination procedure.

"British Columbia does not cover in-vitro fertilizations (IVF). Clinics offering in-vitro fertilization are private clinics and as such, the Ministry of Health has no authority over the costs charged for treatment," she continued.

"Our focus is to insure effective, medically necessary procedures, while keeping health care costs sustainable."

Veltcamp said she understands not everything can be covered by the province but believes there should be patient input into how that decision is made.

"When you're going through infertility, your life is on hold. We're on the other side and we want the journey to be easier for everyone else."

With files from Tanya Fletcher and On the Coast

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Juvarya Veltkamp says in-vitro fertilization should be publicly funded in B.C.


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