KUALA LUMPUR: The health ministry is mulling over a move to propose to the government that childless couples be allowed to withdraw their savings in the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to undergo various fertility treatments.
Deputy Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin reasoned there was a need for such a withdrawal as the cost incurred to undergo in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) was quite expensive.
Even when subsidised by the government, she noted, the cost of one cycle of IVF treatment could reach RM5,000, whose success rate for pregnancy was only between 30 and 40 percent.
"Based on such a rate, the cost of successful fertility treatment may well climb into tens of thousands of ringgit or even RM100,000.
"Though the government is subsidising some parts of the treatment, the amount is often too great for us to absorb fully under current national healthcare provisions.
"The field of reproductive medicine is, by nature, an expensive undertaking for any young couple, let alone those who are economically underprivileged.
"In order to ensure that couples are not limited by the cost factor in proceeding with fertility treatment, we will explore the possibility of recommending to the EPF to allow them to withdraw part of their savings from its 'B' Account.
"This is to pay for the treatment since infertility is now regarded as a disease, much like any other physical ailment," she told reporters after opening the Second National Reproductive Medicine Congress here Friday.
Rosnah officiated the opening ceremony on behalf of Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
The six-day congress organised by the Kuala Lumpur Hospital's Reproductive Medicine Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, in collaboration with the ministry.
Rosnah said the proposal to withdraw EPF savings to undergo fertility treatment was under study by the ministry's technical team.
Rosnah said a National Population and Family Development Board survey indicated fertility rates in Malaysia as having declined from 3.4 in 1994 to 2.3 in 2008, adding that the figures continued to deteriorate.
Meanwhile, the congress bestowed awards to Tengku Puan Pahang Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah and former health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican for their contributions to the development of reproductive medicine in the country. - Bernama