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IFPA forced to suspend family planning services to medical card holders

By September 7, 2008News

– Release date: 08 September 2008

The Irish Family Planning Association has been forced to suspend the provision of services to medical card clients at its main Dublin clinic, due to a lack of funding from the HSE.

The services are being suspended today (8.09.08) because funding from the HSE has been exhausted, and the IFPA understands that no additonal funding will be made available for the remainder of 2008 to cover medical card services at its Cathal Brugha St Clinic.

The IFPA very much regrets the suspension of services to medical card holders, and advises that they attend their GP for family planning and women’s health services instead.

Over recent months there has been a substantial increase in demand services among medical card clients. “Already this year, we have provided over 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 their choice of contraception. It may also lead to an increase in crisis pregnancy,” according to Niall Behan, IFPA Chief Executive.

“Family planning is a preventative health intervention, and is an essential component of a good public health system. Through the provision of quality reproductive healthcare, women can avoid crisis pregnancy.

“There is political consensus on 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 contradicts this.”

The IFPA has, for many years, heavily subsidised 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.

The recent Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships highlights the issue of the cost of contraception cost for people with medical cards: Almost a quarter of men and 30% of women surveyed in this study said cost is a barrier to accessing contraceptive services. Young people were more likely to state that cost played a role, and education plays a significant role; men and women with primary or secondary level education, were more likely to find cost a barrier to accessing services than those with third-level education.

According to the ISSRH report, medical card holders were significantly more likely to state that cost of service was a major barrier to access.

“The loss of the IFPA service to medical card holders further compounds the barriers faced by vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in accessing contraception. Indeed, it also shows that the first to bear the brunt of HSE cuts are those who can least afford to access quality sexual and reproductive healthcare,” added Niall Behan.