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Times of India
31 March 2010
By Durgesh Nandan Jha
New Delhi, India

Crippled By Lack of Embryologists
The difference in salaries paid to clinical embryologists in the private sector and the government sector has left the only Delhi government–run In–Vitro Fertility (IVF) clinic at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital paralysed.

More than two years after it was set up, the clinic continues to have only one embryologist – who joined six months ago – even as the number of couples seeking treatment for infertility has gone up from 3,000 in 2007 to 9,000 now.

Embryologists play a crucial role in the IVF process. They determine the fertility level of a patient, are responsible for the collection of male sperm and female eggs, maintaining of the viability of gametes, tissues and embryos during processing, the macro–manipulation and testing of the sustainability of each gamete, the preparation of gametes (female ovum and male sperm), embryo culture and cryo–preservation, and the environment during the procedure. “Even if we doctors do our bit, without good eggs and proper implantation, child birth via the IVF technique remains a distant possibility,” said Dr Sudha Prasad, project coordinator, IVF Reproductive Biology Centre, LNJP Hospital.

The shortage of lab experts, said doctors, is affecting the success rate of the IVF technique, which currently stands at 29%. Not only that, sometimes the hospital administartion is even forced to virtually shutdown the clinic when its only embryologist goes on a leave.

“Of the 50 procedures carried out here, 15 have been successful. We lost most of the other cases during implantation, a procedure which is carried out by clinical embryologists. Unfortunately, their numbers remain few and they are mostly employed by privately–run clinics which pay huge salaries, sometimes as high as Rs 10,000 per case,” added Dr Prasad.

She said the post of a clinical embryologist is contractual and extendable up to two years in the current LNJP set–up and that they are not considered to be at par with doctors.

LNJP Hospital is now planning on setting up a culture lab which will train embryology students on the IVF procedure, and on genetic analysis of a zygote.

Government–run IVF clinics have proved to be a boon for infertile couples, and those having trouble conceiving because of infection or sexually transmitted disease.

The clinics charge very little – between Rs 30,000 and 40,000 – as opposed to the privately–run clinics which charge up to Rs 2 lakh for the same procedure. LNJP has, apart from conducting 15 successful births, also managed to facilitate at least 10 egg donations.

“There were some cases of multiple birth and the healthy eggs were later donated to couples who were not able to conceive,” said a doctor at LNJP.

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