Ms McPherson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Fertility treatments are a necessary medical service that some Albertans rely on to grow their families. Alberta’s only publicly operated fertility clinic, at the Royal Alexandra hospital, stopped offering non-insured services in February 2018, with patients sent to private clinics, but private clinics in Alberta have sent patients away for their race, their body type, and other backgrounds, often requiring public pressure to reverse their insensitive policies. To the Minister of Health: what assurances can you provide to patients of private clinics that they will not be refused for treatment for nonmedical reasons?
Ms Hoffman: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the member for the question and the opportunity to respond. Certainly, our heart goes out to anyone who’s struggling with infertility. We all know somebody who’s been down that road. Like everyone who wants to have a family, we certainly send them our thoughts and our prayers. We are also covering the cost differential between the AHS clinic and the private during the transition of their choosing. There are two hours of access to mental health counsellors that we’re providing as well, again, because of the mental anguish. If there are specifics about discrimination and racism, please raise them with me or with the College of Physicians & Surgeons. Certainly, that would be the most appropriate place.
Ms McPherson: With the range of private fertility clinics available in Alberta and the uneven distribution of insured and noninsured services throughout the province and the inconsistent and potentially confusing array of fertility-related treatments and services, with confusing fees that may or may not be covered by public and private insurance, again to the Minister of Health: what will you do to help patients navigate Alberta’s increasingly complicated reproductive and fertility treatment landscape?
Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much to the member for the question. We certainly have been working with all of the families who’ve been impacted by the noninsured services moving from a hospital to a community-based setting, and we are looking into some specific concerns that they’ve raised with us. Our office is available. There are also navigators with AHS that are helping individuals through these challenges. We certainly do share our sympathies with them as they struggle with this very difficult, very personal situation, Mr. Speaker.
Ms McPherson: The lack of accessible and affordable fertility treatments in Alberta has driven some families to seek sometimes poorly regulated services abroad, which can generate complications that have to be treated at a greater cost in Alberta. A 2014 report by the U of A estimated that funding well-regulated assisted reproductive technology in the province would result in net savings of up to $179 million in health care costs over 18 years. Can you commit, Minister, to updating the 2014 report with respect to the potential cost savings from funding well-regulated treatments?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. While we currently don’t provide IVF treatments, this is something that I know some jurisdictions have been looking at changing. I’ve been watching with great interest what’s happening across our country. While I’ve seen some jurisdictions increase funding substantially and then claw it back, that to me would be the worst-case scenario. We want to work to develop a sustainable system, support those who are accessing the publicly insured services while working to reduce wait times. I’m happy to continue working on this issue with all women who aspire to be biological mothers in the province of Alberta.