Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Health Minister Refuses 'Quick Fix' for Abortion Pill Payment Issue

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Health Minister Refuses 'Quick Fix' for Abortion Pill Payment Issue

Article excerpt

No abortion pill 'quick fix:' Health minister

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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's health minister says he won't step in to fix a payment issue that's stopping doctors in the province from prescribing the abortion pill.

Randy Delorey said Thursday physicians have requested a new billing code to prescribe Mifegymiso, a publicly funded two-drug combination used to terminate an early pregnancy.

The province's fee committee -- made up of representatives of Doctors Nova Scotia, physicians and the department -- has expedited the review of an application for a specific code for prescribing the abortion pill, he said.

"There has been a request for consideration of a mechanism to provide additional compensation ... that's being considered by the joint committee," Delorey said. "The drug is available and can be prescribed."

However, the abortion pill remains largely out of reach of most women in Nova Scotia.

Physicians have said the existing billing structure doesn't adequately compensate them for the time involved with counselling patients, providing education about options, and ordering multiple tests before prescribing Mifegymiso.

The outcome is that most women in Nova Scotia currently cannot access the abortion pill, despite the provincial government's decision to fund Mifegymiso last fall.

The situation has left women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies using pills scrambling to find one of the handful of doctors in the province rumoured to be willing to prescribe Mifegymiso.

However, most doctors and the province's only abortion clinic are not offering the alternative to surgical abortion, according to Dr. Lianne Yoshida, medical co-director of the Termination of Pregnancy Unit at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

Although it's unclear when the fee committee will review a new billing code for Mifegymiso, Delorey said he won't bring in an interim billing code for overseeing an abortion using pills.

He said it's more important to have sustainable solutions in health care rather than "quick fixes."

"There's a situation in health care ... often we love to have quick fixes," he said. "I think it's more important to have sustainable and appropriate solutions. …

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