Ledon Wellon said in January she wasn’t going to hold her breath when the Liberal party promised an in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic for the province as part of its re-election platform.
Turns out she was wise not to.
“It’s exciting to hear, but there’ve been promises before, so I can’t get too excited without actually seeing anything start to happen,” she said at the time.
Last week, Health Minister Dr. John Haggie essentially backed away from that promise, saying an IVF clinic is not practical and the government would instead work on providing more funds to help prospective parents travel to other provinces for the service.
“I’ve been inundated with messages. A lot of people are upset,” Wellon told The Telegram Monday.
“They promised a clinic here, and travel funding in the interim.”
Wellon started a Facebook page called Faces of Fertility two years ago to highlight the struggle of people like herself who are trying to get pregnant.
Meanwhile, the provincial Opposition said in a news release that Haggie denied the promise was ever made in comments made on VOCM’s "Openline" on Friday.
“Premier (Andrew) Furey made a promise to people who wish to conceive children with medical assistance here at home, rather than endure endless wait lists and expensive, burdensome travel across the country,” Topsail-Paradise MHA Paul Dinn said. “Young women and couples have told me that eliminating any travel and having a clinic in the province would be a tremendous help, and now his health minister confirmed they will break that promise.”
Dinn, the Progressive Conservative health critic, said the government shouldn’t leave such barriers to parenthood in place during a demographic crisis.
“It’s an insult to those he made this promise to and it’s counterproductive to the larger goal of growing, not shrinking, our population," Dinn said. "We need a literal ‘made at home’ solution here for which the physicians and expertise currently reside.”
Wellon says there are two full-fledged fertilization specialists in the province, and the minister is wrong to say the expertise doesn’t exist.
“I think that’s incredibly insulting to the highly trained physicians that we have here,” she said. “I know that he hasn’t even talked to our fertility doctors that we have here to discuss what the needs are.”
There are about 30 IVF clinics across the country, including two in the Maritimes, and an average of 100 people in Newfoundland and Labrador travel each year to avail of their services.
Wellon says a clinic should be viable.
“We would need an embryologist, I assume, but apparently there are a few embryologists who work in clinics across Canada that are from Newfoundland, so I’m sure we could find one,” she said. “It would keep a lot of money in the province.”
She says low population size is not an acceptable excuse.
“We don’t have the population for a lot of things, but we have a lot of things available,” she said.
As for her own struggles, Wellon got some good news at the beginning of the year.
Although she had to abandon frozen embryos she left in Alberta because of the pandemic, she tried another treatment back home and is now 6 1/2 months pregnant.
She’s due in October.
Haggie was not available for comment Monday.
Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram