AN Alliance MLA has welcomed news that IVF treatment will be publicly funded in the Republic, but said commitments to increase provision in Northern Ireland must be honoured.
On Tuesday, the Irish health minister Stephen Donnelly announced that state-funded IVF would be available from September.
Allowing for one cycle to be fully funded, it is estimated around 3,000 couples a year will save over 11,000 euros.
The treatment will be available to couples who do not have children and where the woman is under 41-years-old.
Other criteria will include the body mass index (BMI) of women, and will not include couples with a known cause of fertility.
Mr Donnelly secured 10m euro for the scheme in last year’s budget, and is seeking a further 30m.
Mr Donnelly said it was part of the Irish government’s “determination” to cut healthcare costs and was part of a “national fertility service” that was being rolled out.
In Northern Ireland, those eligible for IVF treatment are currently entitled to one publicly funded cycle of IVF.
In 2020, the New Decade New Approach deal to restore Stormont had pledged that the Executive would provide three funded cycles of IVF treatment.
The following year, Stormont’s former health minister Robin Swann said that this had so far been “impossible to implement” over a lack of recurrent funding and capacity restraints.
Speaking to the Irish News, the Alliance health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw said it was “imperative” this target should not be forgotten.
“As elected representatives, we receive frequent correspondence highlighting concerns about accessing IVF treatment, including delays in just getting on the waiting list of the Regional Fertility Clinic,” she said.
“So, I can just imagine how delighted those seeking treatment and support in the South, will be to hear this news today. The lifting of the financial burden, especially in the current cost of living crisis, will no doubt be very much appreciated.
“Meanwhile, here, we are still awaiting delivery of the New Decade New Approach commitment for three cycles of IVF.
“I appreciate the huge pressures on our Health & Social Care Trusts – in terms of capacity and funding – but, it is imperative that this commitment is delivered upon to allow people here the opportunity to have a child or, even, children.”