by Q Radio News
The Health Minister has welcomed the return of services at the Regional Fertility Centre (RFC) in Belfast which recommenced today, on a phased basis.
Robin Swann has also announced that the eligibility for anyone currently on the waiting list will be extended by a year.
The decision was taken in recognition of the disruption caused by covid-19.
The temporary measure will reduce the pressure for women who would otherwise breach the upper age limit before receiving treatment.
Health Minister 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.”
Staff at the RFC will be in touch with patients directly once they are in a position to resume their appointments.
The restoration of services is aligned with the Strategic Framework for Rebuilding Health and Social Care (HSC) Services on 9 June and Phase 2 Rebuilding Plans on 10 July.
The key aim will be to incrementally increase HSC service capacity as quickly as possible across all programmes of care, within the prevailing Covid-19 conditions. Subsequent phases will see these service activity plans and targets updated in three monthly cycles.