IVF Babble

How will things work when clinics do finally reopen?

Thousands of men and women across the world who were in the middle of an ivf cycle or who had a start date in their diary, have had their hearts broken, as the news reached them that their dreams of becoming a parent would have to wait until some time in the distant future. With no real news about when the world might get a grip on the coronavirus, those TTC are left waiting, with only uncertainty, of what the future might hold.

So many of you have emailed us with questions about how things will work when clinics do finally reopen. You are concerned about an even longer wait to start again, with the threat of a huge backlog of patients all wanting to start back as soon as they are allowed. Will the clinics be able to accommodate everyone?

We sent your questions to Dimitris Kavakas from Redia IVF Travel and asked him how clinics are coping.

How will the fertility world cope with the volume of patients when we are all free from our lockdown?

Although we do not know when the lockdown is going to end, the information we receive is that its removal will be gradual and per country, just as it was introduced. Initially, clinics will be open for local patients and gradually international patients will be added, as international travel becomes gradually available again. Most of the clinics I work with, have been operating below capacity, to a 60-70%. This means that they can easily accommodate a rapid increase in demand. Obviously, patients who are already in treatment will be their priority to move quickly to completion.

Now, I have to make a differentiation between private clinics and clinics in public systems, i.e. the NHS. The latter, may face a large volume of patients and may need to extend their waiting lists.

What measures are in place?

As far as I know, all clinics we work with, and we are working with the best available ones,  have not ceased to work. They have only stopped performing treatments, however, they are doing all the preparation work so that when treatment resumes, they can move as quickly as possible. All of them are engaged in daily online consultations with patients so as to get them prepared and ready for treatment when time comes.

Will people have to wait in line for treatment?

There maybe more delays than usual for patients that wait to contact clinics after the operation is resumed. However, for patients that are already in contact with a clinic for treatment and for those that will use this current time to make a contact with a clinic and proceed with an online consultation, there will be no delay as these will be the cases that will move immediately after operations resume.

In cases of clinics operating with public funding, unfortunately there will be an increased waiting list. As you may know, the NHS has a long waiting list in the UK and it is estimated that this waiting time will be increased further.

For those who had start dates in the diary, will they have to wait until existing patients pick up where they left off, once the clinics open their doors again?

No, if you have a start date, providing that on that day clinic operations will be active once more, your treatment will start as scheduled. As mentioned above, most clinics have the capacity to increase the number of patients they can treat at any given time and they are actually doing all preparations now to make sure everything runs smoothly when the doors open again.

Will those who had their cycles put on hold pick up from where they left off?

It depends on what that point was. It is likely that you will resume the cycle from the beginning if it was cancelled due to restrictions on travel. If you have had egg collection and embryos are frozen, then you will pick it up from that point and start preparation for transfer. In most cases, there will be no further need for blood tests and other screening tests, if these were done. However, we do not know how long this lockdown will last. Virology tests for example are valid for 6 months. In case we have a long wait, these may be required again.

How many patients can one clinic deal with at a time?

There is no easy answer to this. It depends on the size of the clinic. I gave you some estimate statistics on capacity percentages above. Usually clinics have time zones every day for egg collection and other zones for embryo transfers, so it depends on how many operation rooms they have, how many doctors and infrastructure. On average, I can say that most clinics will cope with the increased demand, however, it is important that patients start contacting clinics now. They should not wait until everything is back to normal again.

Do clinics have any idea when they will be able to reopen?

Clinics live in the same environment as all of us. This crisis is second to none in our life time so nobody can actually predict the end of it. Most probably, as I said before, this will be done gradually and it will also be different from country to country. Some experts talk about opening gradually from June, some say that restriction could last until September.

Do clinics have the facilities to freeze all eggs and embryos, for those who were told to cease treatment?

Yes, clinics have a large capacity to vitrify and they have already done so. All patients that had to cease treatment had their eggs or embryos vitrified. There may be some cases though, that travel restrictions were imposed while they were in their stimulation process, before egg collection, and because they could not travel for collection, their stimulation had to be suspended. These patients, unfortunately have to resume stimulation from the beginning.

What effect will this temporary hold have on the industry and what is the knock on effect for future patients?

There are currently financial analysts who try to estimate this effect. Nobody really knows the actual effect and it will depend on how long this lockdown will last. Certainly, clinics will face financial challenges, however, most governments of the countries in which clinics are located, are already implementing support measures for such businesses to help them get through this crisis. I do believe that there will be an eventual balance in the industry until the end of the year, providing that we will have a removal of the lockdown until the end of the summer, so I do not see any knock on effect for future patients.

Huge thanks to Dimitris Kavakas from Redia IVF Travel for this informative update. If you have any further questions, please do drop us a line at info@ivfbabble.com.

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