1.) What do you think of Gov. Cuomo’s decision to treat fertility treatments as essential at this time?
I think it’s great and so important that fertility be recognized as an essential service. For many patients – including those of advanced maternal age and oncology patients – delaying treatment can have a big impact. A few months can make all the difference in someone’s ability to have their own children, or not.
Fertile patients have not been told to defer pregnancy, and this has made infertile patients feel like they are not supported. Governor Cuomo’s announcement is an important step in recognizing the very real struggles of infertility – something that affects 1 in 8 couples.
2.) Has the recent announcement from Gov. Cuomo’s office changed your operations at Kindbody (i.e. if you were closed or offering limited services before, how has that changed now)?
Having the Governor’s recognition on this important issue has bolstered both fertility patients and providers, including the team at Kindbody. At Kindbody, we implemented social distancing very early and switched to offering our services virtually – whenever possible – right away. We did remain open for urgent cases, including taking care of patients needing fertility preservation because of a cancer diagnosis.
With the Governer’s recognition, we are now carefully expanding our definition of urgent cases, and will be starting new fertility treatments on a case by case basis.
3.) What safety precautions have you been taking at the clinic, and will any of that change now?
We have been, and will continue to take the following safety precautions:
- Clinic will be staffed with essential employees only
- Admin staff will complete patient’s registration ahead of time to reduce the need for any front desk interaction
- Patients are asked about symptoms in advance, and temperature will be taken upon arrival. If they have symptoms or fever, they will need to reschedule.
- Surgical masks and gloves for all staff and patients will be provided by Kindbody
- Patients will go directly from check in into a treatment room. They will stay in that room for all services with no more than one provider.
- Providers and staff will have assigned rooms to maintain and keep clean/wipe down
- All follow up visits – and all visits not required to take place in the clinic – will be virtual
The Covid-19 pandemic will not go away for a long time and we are now adapting to providing care as a different type of practice. We are only performing services in-clinic that absolutely need to be performed in-clinic, and we are significantly expanding our telehealth offerings.
4.) Prior to Gov. Cuomo’s announcement, what services were you offering? Assuming that services were previously limited, why had you decided to limit them?
Because these changes happened rapidly, we completed patients who were in the middle of a fertility cycle and delayed new starts.
For the past few weeks we have continued to offer care for urgent cases, specifically for cancer patients. We decided to limit our services based on the recommendations of ASRM and the CDC, and to practice the utmost caution as we learned more about the developing situation.
We also immediately offered virtual consultations, virtual programs, and even virtual support groups. It has been incredibly gratifying to see the engagement and high participation in all of these programs and our doctors and clinicians have been extremely busy caring for, educating, and supporting all our new and existing patients in this unprecedented time.
5.) If you are, indeed, offering more services now, what will that mean for your patients?
Anyone who is interested in continuing with fertility treatment or pursuing fertility care is encouraged to connect with our clinical team to review the specific details of their situation. Our physicians will work with them on a case by case basis and develop a personalized plan and timeline that makes sense for their specific situation.
There is a lot we still don’t know about the virus, and all patients will be counseled carefully about the risks and benefits of proceeding with treatment.
6.) When services were limited in response to COVID-19, did you hear from concerned patients? If so, what concerns did they express?
Many patients who were about to start treatment were upset and anxious that they did not have a clear timeline for continuing, since we did not know how long we would need to wait. As mentioned, fertile patients have not been told to defer pregnancy, and this made infertile patients feel like they are not supported.
On Monday, we posted on social media about Governor Cuomo’s announcement, and there was a wave of emotional responses – people in New York expressing deep gratitude, and people in other states tagging their legislatures and urging them to take action.
As an example, here is one of the comments:
“Infertility IS essential care. Some of us have one ovary, older age, diminished ovarian reserve, recurrent miscarriages, please – we just want a chance at motherhood. The CDC isn’t mandating no one get pregnant right now, but they are discriminating against us women who need essential healthcare to conceive.”
7.) What do you think of ASRM’s guidelines against starting new cycles at this time? Have those guidelines influenced your decision in any way?
The ASRM Covid-19 Taskforce is a group of experts that provide valuable guidelines, but at the end of the day, the decision lies with the physician and the patient.
At this point, we will be evaluating new cases individually with our patients, with the utmost concern for everyone’s safety.
Ultimately, we believe it is between the physician and the patient to decide what is the appropriate treatment and what is right for them at this time.