The CEO of the company that has taken over the fertility clinic in Moncton says they're making immediate changes that he believes will have a significant impact on fertility services in Atlantic Canada.
The Fertility Partners, which operates 10 in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics in Canada, took over Conceptia last week after months of outcry from patients who said they were left in the dark about their treatments.
During that time, the waitlist for services swelled to 600 people, says Dr. Andrew Meikle, CEO of The Fertility Partners.
"When you consider that currently Conceptia is seeing about 150 IVF cycles a year, you could see that at the current pace it would take at least two to three years to catch up to the backlog," he said.
Conceptia is one of two clinics in Atlantic Canada that offers in vitro fertilization services. The other, Atlantic Assisted Reproductive Therapies, is based in Halifax. Both have long waitlists.
That means that often, families in Atlantic Canada travel to Ontario or Alberta for their treatment.
Dr. Meikle says the region is significantly under–serviced, and he's hoping to change that. He says they're already in the process of buying new technology for Conceptia's laboratory, to allow the clinic to create more embryos for the IVF procedures.
They're also hiring several more nurses, and changing to electronic records systems, so patients can communicate with the clinic online.
"We know that we have the resources and the know–how to help the clinic to serve more patients – and we think better as well."
In November, another reproductive endocrinologist will also start working at the clinic.
Dr. Meikle says all of these components will mean they can see significantly more patients in a year.
"We hope to, in the first year, double that capacity to 250 to 300 and then grow it to 4 to 500 a year in the years after that."
He estimates that of their current patients, 80 per cent are from New Brunswick, 15 per cent are from Prince Edward Island, and the remaining five per cent come from Nova Scotia.
Dr. Meikle says with the added capacity, they'll be able to include more families from Newfoundland and Labrador.
"I'd like to suggest that there's hope now," he said to the families who currently face years of waiting before their first appointment.
The acquisition is being celebrated by Fertility Matters Canada, a national organization that advocates for access to fertility treatment. Carolynn Dubé, the executive director, is based in Moncton. She says the region is in desperate need of more support.
She points out that an estimated one in six families experience infertility.
"That's a huge number of people in Atlantic Canada. And when Conceptia has not been seeing new patients for four or five months now, that leaves one fertility clinic for thousands of people," she said.
Dubé says she has had conversations with The Fertility Partners about what needs to change.
Fees won't change
"They've been really great to work with. They're open to listening."
Dr. Meikle says while they're investing in the clinic, the current fees will not go up. A basic IVF cycle at Conceptia starts at $7,350 but that does not include medication, which costs thousands of dollars.
"If we're seeing more patients, there's more revenue to support these investments," said Dr. Meikle.
Dubé is hopeful that the investments into the clinic will draw more attention to fertility issues in the region.
She points out that only New Brunswick and P.E.I. have some funding in place to cover the costs for families.
"If you're a patient in Newfoundland and you have to fly to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, that's a huge added cost."
She points out the fees also disproportionately hurt those in the LGBTQ community, who often need assistance to conceive.
"It's not just a women's issue. It's a people's issue. It's a men's issue," she said.
She says the changes in Moncton are a good first step. "It's going to bring a lot more hope to people who are really struggling."
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