By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Dandenong MP and Cabinet Minister Gabrielle Williams has welcomed the State Government’s backflip on its 90-day ban on new IVF patients.
The State Government was strongly criticized after pausing IVF – and elective surgeries – as part of a Pandemic Code Brown in public hospitals from midday, 19 January.
It was in response up to 6000 health staff infected or quarantined a day and more than 1200 infected hospital patients in Victoria.
As of 20 January, there were 267 Covid patients in Monash Health hospitals, including 21 in intensive care.
In recent years, Ms Williams has publicly shared her “gruelling roller coaster of hope and despair” undergoing IVF.
In a social media post on 20 January, Ms Williams said she was pleased to hear IVF’s resumption the next week – announced a day after Code Brown commenced.
“I know how much this means to the thousands of people across Victoria who need these services and don’t have time on their side.
“I know only too well the distress caused by delays to IVF services.
“I’ve been undergoing assisted reproductive treatments for over five years, so far without success.
“And as the weeks and months march on, it only gets harder. The window of opportunity gets smaller. Success rates decline.
“And you steel yourself for the day you might have to concede that the journey is over, and in doing so reimagine your whole life to fit a new and unwelcome reality.
“It’s an awful feeling.”
The Minister for Women thanked others for sharing their “deeply personal stories” in advocating for the continuation of IVF services.
“My story sits alongside yours.
“While our journeys have their own unique twists and turns, most of us on this path share the same heartache and – importantly – hope.
“Good luck, and I hope today’s announcement makes it all that little bit easier.”
Premier Daniel Andrews apologized for the “sense of distress and pain” originally caused by the ban.
The resumption of IVF treatments was triggered by changed advice from the Chief Health Officer, he said.
IVF’s specialist workforce, facilities and equipment were now “not imperative to support the pandemic response at this time”, according to a statement from the State Government.
Mr Andrews said the Code Brown was caused by the “extraordinary pressure” of hospital staff being isolated and unable to work due to Covid.
“People are doing their very best just to keep people safe – that’s what drives us.”
Among the ban’s critics was Opposition leader Matthew Guy who accused the Government of “dictating whether or not Victorians can have a family”.
Opposition health spokesperson Georgie Crozier said: “We are already in the midst of a shadow lockdown and now the Government is putting the mental health of those experiencing infertility at risk.”