Two months into B.C. making contraception free to those with MSP, a nurse practitioner says patients are asking for more information on different types of birth control – and waits for IUDs have nearly doubled.
Vancouver nurse practitioner Sara Eftekhar said since April 1 – when B.C. became the first in the country to make several types of contraception free to those with Medical Services Plans – she’s seen an increase of people who have chosen a different type of birth control, specifically intrauterine devices, a long-acting form of birth control.
Eftekhar was used to prescribing birth control pills, which have typically been the the cheaper option for contraception.
“But now, at appointments, people are interested into interested in learning about the shots or the different types of IUDs. And that wasn’t really like the case before,” she explained.”Now the conversation has shifted, with people being able to choose, which is really empowering, and really important for achieving health equity.”
Typically, Eftekhar said, IUDs were much more expensive. Even with benefits, people could still be paying $100 or more.
“A lot of people chose not to actually get it even though we know from evidence that long-term IUDs, they have the the best benefits.”
But that’s now leading to longer waits for people to get them between trying to get a doctor’s appointment and making an appointment to get an IUD.
Prior to April, 1, Eftekhar said waits were roughly three to four weeks. Now they could be upwards of eight weeks.
“That’s one of the big barriers is like how the government has introduced this new policy, but hasn’t really thought about ways of supporting family practitioners, like nurse practitioners or family doctors, and how to make it accessible for people to be able to get it.”
Black Press Media reached out to the Health Ministry to see if they have any data on contraception prescriptions in the last two months, but a spokesperson said it’s too early to comment on any trends.
Eftekhar said that several types of contraception are also not included in the government’s list. That discrepancy, she said, is disappointing.
Beyond wait times, there is also the issues of equitable access throughout the province.
For Eftekhar, she finds language to be a barrier.
“I see a lot of people who want the free contraception who are majority white and English speaking. Whereas I don’t really see that … for a lot of communities who are non-English speakers.”
She said that has a lot to do with how the province has marketed the free contraception. She points to COVID-19 around education and vaccines, which was translated into multiple languages with far-reaching engagement.
Demand for different types of contraception could increase even further, she said.
For AccessBC, which campaigned for free birth control in B.C., there is still a push for more equitable access in the non-metropolitan regions of the province.
“It’s much easier to get access to contraception, prescription or otherwise, in a major metropolitan centre, like Victoria or Vancouver, but much harder for people in rural and remote communities,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, a researcher and Saanich city councillor.
But he hopes that with pharmacists being able to prescribe some birth control as of this week that it could help.
“The need to go get a prescription for the pill, every three months is a burden on our healthcare system. If someone’s been comfortable using the pill for 2, 3, 4 years, having them take time from the doctor and take time out of their day to get an extra appointment to fill that prescription is unnecessary burden.”