The head of one of Canada’s telecom giants is apologizing after a botched rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine booking system in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
Telus CEO Darren Entwistle said his company is “sorry for the frustrations that British Columbians have experienced” trying to connect to call centres. The company was hired to provide the call centre support for the province’s second-largest health authority to book vaccine appointments.
“The provincial government and health authorities asked us to support them, and we have let them down. We can and will do better, and we will make this right,” Entwistle said.
On Monday, non-Aboriginal British Columbians born in 1931 and earlier and aboriginal British Columbians born in 1956 and earlier were eligible to book vaccination appointments.
Across the province, 14,949 appointments were booked. This included 8,722 Fraser Health, 2,456 in Interior Health, 2,395 in Island Health, 1,007 in Northern Health and just 369 in Coastal Health,
Fraser Health relied on an online system the other health authorities do not have. The three other health authorities, excluding Vancouver Coastal Health, used a back-up internal system.
“Our team has been working overnight to respond to the significant demand and scale capacity by adding hundreds of additional agents,” Entwistle said.
“We will ensure that all eligible British Columbians are able to book their vaccine in the timeframe set out by the province.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan were on the defensive on Tuesday.
When questioned about the failures of the system, Horgan said the province “had a bad day.”
Dix acknowledged there were serious problems everywhere in B.C. and particularly in Vancouver Coastal Health.
Dix said Vancouver Coastal Health was fully dependent on the call centre provider to provide services based on the contract they had signed with the province.
“Telus failed us yesterday,” he said.
“For that failure, a lot of people wasted time, and I think lost some confidence in the system — confidence that we’ll have to work hard to rebuild at every level in terms of both technical issues that affected all health authorities and staffing issues.”
The government is working to boost up a backup plan in case problems with Telus continue.