Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced the commencement of publicly funded assisted human reproduction (AHR) treatments, with services for eligible patients to be provided at Health Service Executive-approved private clinics.
Eligible patients will be entitled to one full cycle of IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) or ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) treatment. Certain patients may be eligible for three episodes of IUI (intrauterine insemination).
For patients to avail of the publicly funded treatments, they must be referred to a regional fertility hub by a GP or consultant, be a resident in the State, be in a relationship with their current partner for at least one year, and have no living children with that partner – including any children that they are legal guardians to.
Women looking to avail of the services must be aged between 18 and 40, while men must be between 18 and 59. Women seeking treatment must also have a body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 30.
People who have undergone a sterilisation procedure to prevent pregnancy, or who have availed of more than one round of IVF, are not eligible for the scheme.
The services do not include provision for treatments involving the use of donated sperm and eggs for heterosexual or same-sex couples or single female patients. This is to be made available “once regulatory and clinical issues are addressed in the forthcoming Assisted Human Reproduction Bill,” the Department of Health said.
The Government has described the publicly funded, privately provided model of fertility treatment as an “interim measure”, with the ultimate goal to provide a complete publicly funded fertility service.
“In this regard, the first public National AHR Centre is scheduled to open next year,” the department said.
Mr Donnelly said that the announcement was a “very important step” towards fully public-funded AHR treatment, “and represents a major development in the provision of women’s health services in this State”.
“I appreciate the challenges faced by people who wish to start a family but are unable to do so without clinical assistance,” he said. “Cost should not be a barrier to accessing clinical intervention, so I’m very pleased that from today, publicly funded AHR treatment will give thousands of people an opportunity fulfil their hopes of becoming parents.”