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Province opening new 811 call centre in response to increase in COVID-19 calls

Coronavirus: 8-1-1 Healthlink sees uptick in calls
The 811 phone number or Healthlink number provides health services to British Columbians. Keith Baldrey explains how the phone number works and how the province plans on expanding nurse services to help with the volume of people calls.

The B.C. government says a surge in calls to the 811 health line related to the coronavirus is leading the province to create a new call centre to deal with queries not related to the virus.

The two existing call centres will continue to focus on COVID-19 queries.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. confirms 7 new COVID-19 cases, 2 of them health-care workers

On average the province says it receives about 1,200 calls a day to the health phone line. That has peaked this week at an average of 3,800 calls a day.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province is also increasing the number of nurses answering 811 calls.

Coronavirus: B.C. confirms 7 new cases of COVID-19, including 2 health care workers
Coronavirus: B.C. confirms 7 new cases of COVID-19, including 2 health care workers

“We average 25 nurses — there’s 10 to 15 on typical days — but we are increasing our capacity there and opening a new call centre so that those calls that come in to 811, for example, from members of the public who want advice on risk assessment, those would be diverted,” he said.

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“But if people, for example, have a question about a community event that isn’t about their personal health we are setting up another call centre to relieve some of the burden on the 811 line.”

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B.C. Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has recommended British Columbians call 811 if they have COVID-19 symptoms. The nurses on the phone line will not be able to diagnose people with the virus but will be able to provide essential information.

READ MORE: Do you think you have coronavirus symptoms? Here’s who to call first

“If you have symptoms, self-isolate, obviously, and call 811,” Dr. Henry said.

“They can tell you if you’re at risk or not. That’s how we manage it.”

811 is a free provincial health information and advice phone line operated by HealthLink BC. Callers are connected to a health service navigator, who can help callers find health information or connect them directly with a registered nurse, registered dietitian, qualified exercise professional, or pharmacist.