Hold the scalpel: vasectomy services get the snip amid COVID-19

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

Vasectomy services around the country have been reduced or cut amid the coronavirus outbreak, with some speculating it could result in a pandemic baby boom.

Leading abortion, vasectomy and contraception provider, Marie Stopes Australia, on Wednesday announced they were postponing all vasectomy services until further notice. 

"What this change means is that we will have a wait list for all clients seeking a vasectomy service and continue to keep you updated as the current public health situation unfolds," the organisation said. "We hope to resume vasectomy services soon."

It comes after No Scalpel Vasectomy Australia, the peak body for vasectomy services in the country, last week recommended the suspension of all office-based vasectomy services.

"In the COVID-19 pandemic climate, delivering vasectomy services may be seen as a very important health service by some couples as an option for family planning and contraception," they said in a statement. "Similarly, in an economic sense, for providers and associated organisations it may be seen as an important income stream to maintain financial and operational sustainability.

"On the other hand, vasectomy services, unlike abortion care, are not 'Category 1' or emergency surgery and financial imperatives should not override community care and safety considerations."

The NSVA also noted that as vasectomy is a permanent method of contraception, it requires counselling. "This usual face to face pre-operative counselling significantly increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Fortunately, the introduction of tele-health item numbers can be used to minimise this risk and the need for use of PPE."

And reception staff need to be protected with a "degree of PPE," too.

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"The operation including the setup and post-operative phases involves at a minimum contact with the doctor and possibly a nurse," they note. "The actual operation time varies from as little as 6 minutes to an hour. Currently the minimum PPE required would be P2/N95 masks for the patient and doctor, a long sleeve impervious gown and face shield or goggles for the doctor given the close contact."

As such, on balance, they recommended against office-based services.

But not all providers have cancelled procedures. Family Planning NSW confirmed that they are continuing to perform vasectomies with all necessary safety precautions in place.

Dr Dick Beatty, who is known as "The Vasectomist", has reduced vasectomies to only those required for a medical reason.

"Both you and the doctor will be wearing a surgical mask, and we otherwise follow the physical distancing throughout your visit," he notes on his site. "The Doctor will also be wearing a Head Visor. We have a limited number of masks and need to prioritise vasectomy to those couples who have a medical condition."

According to Dr Beatty, vasectomy for medical reasons covers:

  • Pregnancy complications such as Pre-Eclampsia
  • Severe gestational diabetes
  • Other complications that give you 'shudders' at the possibility of your partner going through it again.
He also warns couples not to join the pandemic baby boom 'unless you want to."

"Don't keep your eye off the ball. Continue Good Contraception."