The Quebec government announced it will keep funding assisted procreation but will review whether to continue offering the program free of charge to couples seeking reproduction treatments.
Minister of Health Réjean Hébert noted that the cost of the program has skyrocketed since it was introduced in 2010, costing the province about $60-million a year.
"Perhaps it is time to revisit the money paid to private clinics which deliver the treatments. These are questions that we are examining at the Ministry of Health," Mr. Hébert said on Tuesday.
In some cases, the screening process also appeared to be inadequate, as in a recent case when the McGill Reproductive Centre had to place a baby in the care of the province's youth protection agency after the mother was found to be unfit to keep the baby.
"This was one example of a problem that indicated that new standards may be required," Mr. Hébert said.
The minister confirmed that several dozen groups, specialists, professional associations, women's rights groups and private clinic operators have been asked to appear before Quebec's Health and Welfare Commissioner Robert Salois. Assisted procreation can involve artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and embryo implantation. Women can receive the free reproductive treatment in specialized clinics, which are often the last resort for infertile couples seeking to start or enlarge a family regardless of their financial status.
Quebec was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to offer fully covered assisted reproductive treatments paid for by a public health system. Close supervision as well as improved practices offered by the program has helped reduce the number of multiple pregnancies and complications for newborn babies resulting from assisted reproduction treatments. The number of multiple pregnancies for women who received assisted reproduction treatments fell from 28 per cent to 5 per cent since the program was introduced. Last year, about 6,000 woman received treatment.
Liberal MNA and former health minister Yves Bolduc, who introduced the program three years ago expressed concerns that the government's decision to review it was the first step to introducing user-fees to cover the costs of the treatments.
"The need to review ethical standards is one thing. But it is quite another to call into question a program that is a model in the world. In certain areas, we have proven to be the best. Why call into question a program where we have proven to be the best?" Mr. Bolduc said.
In his review of the program, Mr. Salois also has the mandate to compare the Quebec program to what exists in other countries as well as in other provinces and examine the laws that oversee assisted procreation and the services offered to women.
The review of the program will be completed later this year with proposed changes expected to be made public early next year.