From The Desk Of Dr. Zouves

Dear Patients:

I hope that this letter finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy during these trying times.

It seems our inboxes are flooded with COVID-19 updates from any company that happens to have our contact information. We don’t mean to overwhelm you with yet another – but, in case you were wondering, we wanted to give you an update of what is going on with our ZFC family.

Following the SF Bay Area shelter-in-place order issued on 3/16/2020, we made the difficult decision to temporarily cease practicing – with the exception of following through on patients that had already started medications and were “in-cycle.” One day after implementing this gut-wrenching change, ASRM (the American Society of Reproductive Medicine – our governing body) issued a statement recommending a nation-wide hiatus of clinical IVF procedures (both egg retrievals and embryo transfers).

My mission in life has been to help anyone that walks through our door achieve their goals of making a family – however they envision that. Seeing as this is something I’ve done every single day for the last 35 years, tells you how jolting this experience has been. Though I hope you already know this, it feels important for me to say that our patient’s needs and goals are at the forefront of what we do. We consider ourselves enormous advocates for our patients and understand that fertility treatment is not – nor should it be – considered “elective”. We understand how stopping all treatment right now could be perceived as unfair – given there has been no medical recommendation not to become pregnant for those that do not require fertility treatment. This, in part, is why we did not take this closure lightly. The idea that we could not – at least temporarily – help actively fulfill our patients’ goals was challenging, to say the least.

At the same time, however, it was a straightforward decision for similar reasons. We care for the health and safety of our patients and staff and did not want to risk putting anyone, or someone’s loved one, at any risk. This pandemic was and is bigger than us. And we, as a clinic, as a community, as a society, needed to remember that we don’t live in a bubble. And though we have a huge obligation to our patients and their goals, we also have an obligation to our community, and to our clinician and scientist colleagues on the front lines. Since we stopped procedures, certain medications and PPE (personal protective equipment) that we utilize in the clinic were able to be donated to frontline facilities.

Until now, it appears as though these extensive measures have had an impact on how the pandemic has played out, at least locally. And for that I think we can all be proud. Not everyone in our community has been lucky, and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their loved ones.

Despite the cessation of clinical procedures, our research foundation scientists have not stopped working (though mostly from home for now). They continue to grapple with questions to help us better understand the biological issues that cause infertility and what mechanisms we can consider to improve treatment and outcomes. We continue to work tirelessly to maintain our scientific edge and to level the playing field for anyone suffering from any form of infertility.

On a practical note, we want everyone to know that has sperm, eggs or embryos frozen here at ZFC that they’re safe and well cared for. We are currently operating on a skeleton staff to promote social distancing, but this allows for the safe maintenance and 24-7 monitoring of our cryogenic systems. So please, rest assured that your gametes and embryos are safe, even in these difficult times.

Though we don’t expect this difficult reality to be over anytime soon – we are working towards developing protocols that will allow us to resume operations shortly. The new normal may mean continued COVID-19 testing of in-cycle patients and staff, antibody testing and/or limiting the number of patients in the office at once. These are all issues that we are currently discussing as we monitor the updated guidelines of the regulatory agencies to develop a responsible plan that allows us to once again, get back to working towards addressing the fertility needs of our patients. We understand that not all clinics have made the same choices – and though this was difficult for everyone at ZFC, we are proud of how we’ve managed the crisis – for ourselves, for our patients, and for our communities.

Please know that we are here for you, we will be here for you, and we hope to return to some level of normal over the next month or so. Once there is a hard timeline in place we will update you again – but know that we are available for tele-appointments and consults, and some limited in-office screening. Remember that we are on your side – and can’t wait to get back to what we do best. Please keep in touch.

Sending love to all during these trying times,

Christo Zouves, MD
Zouves Fertility Center
Zouves Foundation for Reproductive Medicine

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