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‘Completely unfair’: More pain for would-be parents as Victorian IVF reforms delayed

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In March thousands of Australians had their fertility treatments put on hold after a national ban on elective surgeries was enforced. This ban was lifted on April 21.

Melbourne woman Sabrina Romano, 30, and her husband, who have unexplained infertility, waited more than a month for their police checks to be processed.

Their approval to start IVF came in the mail four days after the national ban was enforced.

“It has been the most disheartening and demoralising thing in the entire process of IVF,” said Ms Romano, who has no criminal history.

Professor Vollenhoven said the checks were onerous tasks and “something somebody who wants to get pregnant naturally doesn’t have to do”.

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“It’s completely unfair,” she said. “You’re punishing an infertile couple when they’re already being punished enough.”

After more than two months of waiting, Ms Romano has started IVF treatment.

“It was a silly bump in the road, but it affected me greatly,” she said.

Professor Luk Rombauts, president of the Fertility Society of Australia, said Victoria was the most difficult place in the country for women to access IVF treatment.

“What we are seeing now is that Victoria appears to be lagging behind every other state in Australia when it comes to recommencing elective surgeries,” he said.

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As social distancing measures are eased, Lynn Burmeister, medical director at Number 1 Fertility in Melbourne, fears a second wave of coronavirus could shut down the fertility industry again before doctors have a chance to work through the backlog of patients.

“Many patients have presumed the laws have already passed because of all the media around it at the time,” Dr Burmeister said. “They are having to rush to get all the paperwork done during a pandemic on top of the stress and anxiety of their treatment being delayed by two or three months.”

In February Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said a bill would be introduced to Parliament to make a woman’s “IVF journey easier and less anguished”.

While the bill has passed the Legislative Assembly, it must also pass both houses of the Victorian Parliament before it takes effect.

“We don’t know how quickly it will be passed or when it will be actually enacted,” Professor Rombauts said. “There may be even further delays.”

A government spokeswoman said debate on the bill would resume when Parliament returns next month.

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