Advertisement

Interior Health’s COVID-19 vaccine phone line jammed Monday morning

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s mass COVID-19 immunization plan begins Monday' B.C.’s mass COVID-19 immunization plan begins Monday
WATCH: B.C. will begin accepting appointments on Monday for COVID-19 vaccines for people over age 90 and Indigenous people over 65 in what marks the beginning of the province's mass vaccination plan - and the first time seniors outside of long-term care will get access to the vaccines. Grace Ke reports – Mar 7, 2021

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.

Read more: B.C. COVID-19 vaccination call centre receives more than 1.7 million calls in first 3 hours

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.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Vaccine appointment booking starts Monday for Interior residents over the age of 90' Vaccine appointment booking starts Monday for Interior residents over the age of 90
Vaccine appointment booking starts Monday for Interior residents over the age of 90 – Mar 7, 2021

“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.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

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.

Read more: What you need to know as B.C. opens COVID-19 vaccine bookings for people over 90 on Monday

“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.”

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Click to play video: 'Seniors eligible for COVID-19 vaccine can book an appointment as early as next week as phase two of the vaccine rollout in B.C. begins' Seniors eligible for COVID-19 vaccine can book an appointment as early as next week as phase two of the vaccine rollout in B.C. begins
Seniors eligible for COVID-19 vaccine can book an appointment as early as next week as phase two of the vaccine rollout in B.C. begins – Mar 1, 2021

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.

Read more: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna long-term care facility despite vaccinations

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Click to play video: 'Optimism for ‘normal’ summer as B.C. enters phase 2 of vaccine rollout' Optimism for ‘normal’ summer as B.C. enters phase 2 of vaccine rollout
Optimism for ‘normal’ summer as B.C. enters phase 2 of vaccine rollout – Feb 28, 2021

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.

Story continues below advertisement

For more information about how eligible seniors can book a vaccine appointment, visit Interior Health’s COVID-19 vaccine information website. 

Sponsored content