Fertility Services Resume At Belfast City Hospital

The Belfast Regional Fertility clinic has reopened following a period of closure due to Covid-19.

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McGrath welcomes phased resumption of fertility services.

SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath MLA has welcomed confirmation from the Health Minister that services at the Regional Fertility Centre (RFC) have recommenced today on a phased basis.  

The South Down MLA said: “The cancellation of health services at the height of the pandemic was the right course of action. But understandably this caused significant distress to many across the North.

“It is difficult to think of a more distressing situation that those people desperate to start a family and waiting for fertility treatment.

“It is very welcome news that this invaluable service will resume on a phased basis. This will provide huge relief to those waiting to commence treatment.

“Also, it is welcome that the service hours have been extended, to accommodate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

“I also warmly welcome the decision by Minister Swann to extend the eligibility for those currently on the waiting list, who might otherwise cross the age threshold, through no fault of their own.” 

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Regional Fertility Centre To Restart Treatment.

The Regional Fertility Centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital is to restart treatment which will come as a welcome relief for couples across Northern Ireland. After being closed due to Covid 19 the service will resume from Monday 10th of August writes Kevin McAteer.

A spokesperson for the Regional Fertility Clinic said: “We are planning a phased recommencement of Regional Fertility Centre services from 10 August 2020.

“All patients will be contacted in chronological order from the treatment waiting list with their offer of treatment.

“Unfortunately, staff cannot yet estimate when any individual woman will be contacted. We recognise the temporary downturn of services due to Covid-19 and the subsequent reduced capacity due to social distancing will considerably extend waiting times.

“It will take us some time to fully understand the impact on waiting times and we understand the further stress and anxiety this will bring. We apologise for this.”

The Belfast Trust has come under intense criticism over recent months for slowly restarting fertility treatment despite treatment in the UK restarting in May. The RFC have indicated however there will be changes following the first wave of Covid 19. Some of the changes include:

  • increased appointment intervals and limited people in the centre at any one time
  • additional time for disinfection between appointments
  • increased use of PPE (masks, aprons and gloves) for all staff you may come into contact with during procedures
  • a new process where you will be asked to wait safely outside the centre until we call you in for your appointment
  • introduction of new technologies to reduce the number of face to face appointments, for example virtual appointments, some forms completed electronically, communication with patients by email

The Regional Fertility Clinic added: ”We would like to thank the public for their patience, particularly if they have had treatment or appointments cancelled during the time that the Regional Fertility Centre has been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As Belfast Trust prepares for the resumption of services at the Regional Fertility Centre, we are implementing some changes to help keep everyone safe from Covid-19. We will contact patients directly with more detailed information about the changes prior to arranging any appointments.

“When services resume, they will be at a reduced capacity. However, there will be extended opening hours to help us provide appointments safely to as many patients as possible.”

The Minister of Health Robin Swann said: “Although fertility treatments are considered to be routine elective services and the focus is on re-starting urgent services first, I have made it clear that re-starting fertility services is a priority for me and as such, preparations have been ongoing to enable this to happen as soon as possible.

“As treatment will re-start on a phased basis, it will take some time before service levels can be restored to full pre-Covid-19 provision.  To mitigate some of the delay, the RFC will be opening extended hours to help provide appointments to as many patients as safely as possible.

“In recognition of the distress caused to women who are currently waiting for treatment at the RFC, the eligibility for anyone currently on the waiting list will be extended by a year.

“This will reduce the pressure for women who would otherwise breach the upper age limit before receiving treatment.  This temporary extension to the age limit will only apply to women currently on the waiting list.”