Sudbury·Audio

Ontario to pay for fertility treatments, but no IVF clinics in northeastern Ontario

While people in northeastern Ontario might be eligible for new money from the province for fertility treatments, the region continues to go without a fertility clinic of any kind.
People seeking fertility treatment in northeastern Ontario didn't get the news they were hoping for this week. The provincial government announced 50 clinics would be offering funding for in vitro fertilization or IVF . But the situation remains much the same: none of those clinics are in northeastern Ontario.
The provincial government has announced new funding for fertility treatment, but none of the money is coming to the northeast. That's because there no IVF clinics here. We reached NDP health critic France Gelinas for some reaction.

While people in northeastern Ontario might be eligible for new money from the province for fertility treatments, the region continues to go without a fertility clinic of any kind.

The province recently announced it would give money to 50 clinics to divvy up among clients hoping to get pregnant.

All of the province's fertility clinics — save one in Thunder Bay — are in southern Ontario.

That means people with fertility barriers in northeastern Ontario still have no choice but to travel south for help.

The president of Conceivable Dreams, a coalition founded by people struggling with infertility, told CBC News she's confident more IVF clinics will pop up in the province soon.

"As more clinics come up and are available, then more will be covered in the coming years," Danielle Xavier said.

"That's what we're looking to advocate further as we move forward with this program."

Travelling can be a hardship

The province estimates one in six couples are affected by infertility in Ontario.

Sudbury resident Crestina Beites is part of that statistic. She spent seven years traveling from Sudbury to Toronto for in vitro fertilization treatment.

She often had to leave on a moment's notice, driving through rain or blizzards. A government funded fertility clinic or satellite clinic would have meant a great deal to her, she told CBC News. 

"When you're going through IVF, you already have a lot of emotional and mental stress, so it would alleviate a lot of that."

The Ministry of Health says only existing private fertility clinics were considered for funding.
Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas says it's not fair that northeastern Ontario isn't getting government-funded fertility treatments because patients have to continue travelling to southern Ontario — and spending plenty of money to do so — in order to seek treatment. (CBC)

The announcement doesn't still well with NDP health critic and Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas, who said northerners believe in public health care, not privatization.

"We're being punished for it because the government won't allow the public system to offer this service," she said.

"People here really believe that public health care should be delivered by public agency and that profit should not be part of the equation — so we have never been fertile ground for private clinics."

Gelinas added that those who do end up at private clinics "end up paying a whole lot of accessory fees to get access to a program that should be free to them."

For those who opt to travel from northern Ontario for treatment, the ministry says those patients may be eligible for funding assistance to cover transportation costs.

"The Northern Health Travel Grant … provides funding assistance for transportation costs for people who must travel long distances within Ontario to receive funded medical services that are not available in their northern community," the ministry stated in an email to CBC News.

Being reimbursed for the travel costs is not the point, Beites said.

Travelling in sometimes wild weather conditions is "a really undue hardship. An extra hardship aside from having to go through IVF."

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