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IFPA forced to suspend family planning services to medical card holders

By October 12, 2003News

– Release date: 13 October 2003

The Irish Family Planning Association has suspended the provision of services to medical card clients at its flagship clinic in Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin 1.

The services are being suspended, from the 13th of October, due to a lack of funding from the Northern Area Health Board. The IFPA understands that no further funding will be available from the Health Board for the remainder of 2003 to cover medical card services at its city centre clinic.

The IFPA very much regrets the suspension of services to medical card holders who are advised to attend their GP for family planning and women’s health services.

The IFPA’s Cathal Brugha Street clinic attracts a high proportion of young clients. A recent client survey showed that over 56% of those attending were in the 18-25 age group, which is the group most at risk of crisis pregnancy or contracting an STI.

Just over half of the clients attending this service were employed on a full-time basis (56.25%), with the remainder being unemployed or working part-time. The service also sees an increasing number of women from minority communities.

“Already this year, we have provided almost 4,000 appointments to medical card clients from our city centre clinic. The suspension of our services may have serious consequences for these clients in terms of their choice around family planning. It may also lead to an increase in crisis pregnancy,” according to Catherine Heaney, IFPA Chief Executive.

“Family planning and women’s health screening are preventative interventions. Through the provision of quality reproductive healthcare, women can avoid crisis pregnancy. Smear testing and breast awareness ensure early detection of cancers and screening allows for the diagnoses and treatment of STIs.

“There is political consensus around the need to prevent crisis pregnancies and reduce the number of women who access abortion services. This Government has committed itself to the task of reducing crisis pregnancy. However, the lack of funding for an important prevention service flies in the face of this.”

The IFPA has, to–date, heavily discounted its medical card service and has always worked to serve unmet needs. Clients are regularly referred to the IFPA by GPs who do not provide the full range of family planning and reproductive health services, including vasectomy and the insertion and removal of contraceptive devices.