PERTH’S first bulk-billing IVF clinic is set to open in Craigie, offering options for couples unable to afford established services.
And while it is seemingly good news for mothers-in-waiting, the president of Australia’s peak fertility body has advised potential patients to be wary of its limitations.
Primary Health, which operates bulk-billed IVF clinics in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, has confirmed Craigie Medical and Dental Centre as the site for its fourth clinic.It is expected to open in the next six months, pending licence approvals.
The service will have the majority of costs covered by Medicare, leaving most patients just $800 to $1000 out of pocket for a single round of treatment.
In comparison, Perth’s most expensive IVF clinics can charge more than $10,000, while the cheaper ones cost about $4500 in excess of what Medicare covers.
Primary Health medical director Janelle McDonald said the company had seen significant demand from interstate patients, which prompted the move to Perth.
“For some people, treatment is simply unaffordable and prevents them from seeking further help,” she said.
“Our model removes financial barriers; we believe access to high quality IVF should be an option for more people, regardless of their financial situation.”
Fertility Society of Australia president Michael Chapman said Primary Health complied with the necessary standards but claimed they did not offer the same level of support as more costly clinics.
“Bulk-billing has opened access to many who previously could not afford it, but like Jetstar or Tiger, cheap means no frills,” Professor Chapman said.
“Generally, the clinics have been run by GPs who screen the patients; they are not specialists. The specialists are mostly gynaecologists without formal training in infertility.
“A number of them are specialists imported into Australia.
“There has been a reluctance of Australian-trained specialists to participate in this model of care.”
Dr McDonald denied this was the case, saying the level of support was “no different” to other clinics.
She said both doctors the company had recruited for the Craigie centre were WA locals and experienced IVF providers.
“We don’t vary the level of medicine or the science in our holistic team approach,” she said.
“We only change the delivery system, which allows us to provide patients with bulk-billed services.
“General practitioners perform initial patient consults and, once this is complete, the patient is referred to one of our fertility specialists.
“A fertility specialist always controls each patient’s IVF cycle and the majority of our specialists have sub-specialty training in fertility.”
Primary Health does not offer donor services.
Statistics on the company’s website for 2014-15 say their success rate for live births from a fresh embryo ranged from 48.6 per cent for patients under 30 to no births for patients aged over 45.
The company recently celebrated its 800th birth since opening the first centre in Sydney in 2014.