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Times of India
06 December 2010
Hyderabad, India

Health Dept Extends Helping Hand, Allocates 1.25 Cr Budget For ‘Infertility Care’
New Hope for BPL Childless Couples
Andhra Pradesh’s health department has a new objective: helping childless couples in their quest for progeny. In its new population stabilisation strategy planned this year, the state government has allocated a budget of Rs 1.25 crore towards "infertility care’’ for childless couples falling under below poverty line (BPL) for the first time.

What is more in a change of gears, the health department is now going slow on tubectomy camps which were being conducted rigorously to meet the 'targets' until last year. "The new buzz word is population stabilisation as opposed to population control in the past," an official said.

Officials from the health department said that the infertility care would be taken up on a public-private partnership mode. A private partner (yet to be identified) is being roped in because none of the government maternity hospitals nor teaching hospitals, which have gynaecology departments, are equipped to take up these cases. According to the current estimates, the infertility rate in the state stands at 15 per cent among married couples.

Dr G Balaramaiah, joint director, family welfare department, said that the basic idea is, since it is a family welfare programme, the department’s job is not only to control the population but also help childless couples to have children. "The below poverty line population cannot afford costly infertility treatments like in-vitro fertilisation among others that the medical science offers for childless couples," says Dr Balaramaiah. In fact, each attempt for a test tube baby costs Rs 80,000 to Rs 1 lakh with a success rate of 20 per cent.

The official said that couples who have failed to have a child even after three years of marriage or more would be financially supported by the government for the infertility treatment. Gynaecologists from the government hospitals would refer the eligible cases to the private partner. Officials are hopeful that the programme would take off before March 2011.

Not just this. The state is now encouraging late marriages, postponement of first child up to two years and spacing between the first and second child followed by permanent sterilisation under its population stabilisation strategy. Faced by a high child mortality (1 in 19 children die within first year of life) in AP, budget for recanalisation has also been allotted for women who have undergone tubectomy but want to have babies in the wake of death of the child, this year.

Welcoming the government’s move, gynaecologists from government hospitals say that instead of going for a private partner, the government can equip state hospitals with the assisted reproductive technology so that they can take up the cases.

"Incubators is all we need. It will cost the government about Rs one crore to equip a hospital to treat these cases. Instead of sending patients to other hospitals, we can treat them at a much lesser cost," says Dr Tripura Sundari, head, gynaecology, Gandhi Hospital. She added that if a private player is roped in, the government would end up spending 20 times more than in a government hospital.

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