Callers to Interior Health’s phone line to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment reported frustrating delays and disconnections on Monday morning.
At 7:00 a.m., the phone lines opened for the first time to an age cohort involving the general public.
Seniors over the age of 90 and Indigenous people over the age of 65 can call to book an appointment for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic next week.
Laurie Postill said she and her brother have spent a combined 11 hours trying to get through to book their 90-year-old father a vaccination appointment, but to no avail as of 1:00 p.m.
“I think that is pretty poor use of resources,” she said, as the phone number is the only way to currently book an appointment in the B.C. Interior.
“I think an online option would be better. I think for the older people they thought that might be difficult, but most of them have someone that could help them book it,” she said.
Postill said the call centre was overwhelmed with an influx of calls on Monday.
“Sometimes you were disconnected, sometimes you got a busy signal, sometimes you got ‘we are experiencing high call volumes, please call back later,'” Postill said.
“Even if they had the option to put you on a waitlist and you leave your name and number and they call you back, that would be way simpler.”
Global News has received several messages from angry family members upset about the delays in booking a loved one their long-awaited shot in the arm.
Interior Health is using the same phone number that patients call to connect with other health-related services.
The health authority defended not setting up a separate phone line for COVID-19 vaccination bookings, stating that one phone number gives the public a simple and easy way to remember how to reach Interior Health.
“We added many more call agents to receive the callers who press 1 to book a vaccine appointment so that people who select another option can still get the services they need based on regular demand for those services,” an unidentified spokesperson said in an email.
Interior Health has not responded to inquiries about call volumes, but B.C. officials said call centres across the province were overwhelmed on Monday morning.
Health Minister Adrian Dix says as of 9:40 a.m. on Monday morning there were 1.7 million calls.
About 82,000 are eligible to receive an appointment at this time.
The system is not a first-come, first-served system and everyone who is eligible will be able to make a time this week for appointments starting next week.
The province is asking for just one person per eligible British Columbian to call in. This could include the individual themselves or one loved one.
“We ask everyone else to be patient,” Dix said.
For more information about how eligible seniors can book a vaccine appointment, visit Interior Health’s COVID-19 vaccine information website.