I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to comment on this Statement.
Mr Speaker, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a procedure where mothers who are unable to carry pregnancy to the full term are helped to deliver babies. Those who are candidates for this procedure include those who are infertile and cannot carry pregnancy on their own, or those who have had hysterectomy to have their wombs removed as a result of medical conditions. ART allows these people to have children.
Mr Speaker, on a normal day, if one has the natural way of getting pregnant, we refer to it as an in vivo process, and when it is done outside
the womb, it is an in vitro. We have had occasions in Ghana where many women have had children through the in vitro process, referred to as the ART procedure.
Mr Speaker, there are a lot of advantages. The first being the ability to help couples have the best gift of their lives, which is children. In most cases, like one woman I know who about almost 52 years who had triplets for the first time, one could imagine the joy such a woman who has not had children get three at a go at about 50 years. Luckily, this is a woman who had the resources to take care of the children, unlike the one mentioned who had to struggle.
Mr Speaker, there are a number of downsides. The first major disadvantage has to do with cost, where one has to spend close to US$15,000.00 or an average of US$25,000.00 to have one try. It is important to mention that one does not get children at the first try. It is not automatic. The success rate is about 35 to 70 per cent, and some women have tried three to four times before they succeeded. In each try, one would have to pay about an average of US$25,000.00. So, one could imagine if a woman has to try about two or three times. It is not easy.
Mr Speaker, the second challenge has to do with the absence of
regulation or legal framework as, my Hon Colleague, the Hon Member referred to. In Ghana, we have been slow to adopting this technology. We are in the dark like the ostrich. As a State, we virtually assume that it is not happening; but these procedures are going on, and there is the need to regulate the system.
Mr Speaker, some research was done by Hudson et al, in 2011, and it revealed that a lot of women actually come to Ghana to have In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) done because Ghanaian doctors are very good at helping mothers to conceive. Let me take the opportunity to celebrate some of the fertility clinics that have made a lot of name in West Africa and Africa at large. We have the Provita Specialist Hospital, Finney Hospital and Fertility Centre, and Jubail Specialist Hospital in Sakumono. All these fertility centres are doing a wonderful job, and a lot of women are coming in.
We have the opportunity to create medical tourism. If we regulate the sector, then we could open up the space and make a lot of resources from this industry.
Mr Speaker, we need to take some action. The first one has to do with coming up with a Bill. The
Ministry of Health must lead the process and talk to stakeholders. The Committee on Health is ready to engage them to have a Bill. We do not have to start from the scratch. A lot of countries, including South Africa, have the legislation already, so we could copy from best practice.
Mr Speaker, to a large extent, participation in IVF in Ghana is only private. The State has comfortably kept itself from IVF. The irony is that a lot of the doctors who carry out the procedure are public doctors in facilities like the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. They have all the expertise and knowledge; but because the State does not have facilities, they go to private clinics to do the procedure. In the private sector, because they have to get their money back, the cost is high.
One of the ways to drive down the cost is to encourage the State to have, at least, some centres; one in the south, one in the middle belt and one in the northern belt. This is because the doctors are already skilled in IVF, and they carry out the procedure at the private clinics. It is important that the State gets involved. I am happy to mention that by the end of the year, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital would have an IVF facility and we can now provide the service at competitive rates. There would be opportunity to