VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – When Laurie Dahlgren finally heard a human voice on the other end of the B.C. COVID-19 vaccine phone line, she burst into tears.
The Delta woman says she spent more than 15 hours on the phone to finally secure a vaccination appointment for her elderly father.
“I asked — actually, I begged — if he’d please take my phone number, in case we got cut off again. Which he did. He promised that he would call me back right away, if we got cut off,” she said.
Dahlgren is among the many people who had trouble getting through when the lines opened for booking Monday. She says on the third day of trying — after spending hours dialing or on hold, two dropped calls, and no one getting back to her — she finally managed to get through on the Vancouver Coastal Health booking line Wednesday morning.
“When he said he could get me an appointment, I started to cry. He asked what was wrong, and I told him about the holding for four hours and getting hung up on. And I told him that I’d already been hung up on once today,” she said.
Fortunately, they were not cut off, but it still took awhile to get the appointment booked.
“I’m absolutely astounded at how long it takes, once you get a person who can help you make an appointment. It still took him about 20 minutes to find an appointment. And my dad’s in Powell River, it’s a really small place,” she said.
She figures she spent more than 15 hours over three days trying to get this appointment booked, and calls the whole process an “epic fail.”
“These people are 90-plus that they’re putting through this. This is not where you should put your test case. I struggle to understand how poor people that are 90-plus, trying to get an appointment, made it through this,” she said.
“Whoever dropped the ball, there should be a penalty for that,” Dahlgren added.
From March 8 to 12, Indigenous people age 65 and up, as well as other British Columbians age 90 and up, are eligible to book appointments. The process opens up to more British Columbians each week, by five-year age increments. Some regions have different timelines due to population density and vaccine stock.
People are reminded to not call until it’s their turn to book a vaccine appointment.
On Monday, only 369 people in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority were able to make appointments. Tuesday was significantly better, with 3,103 appointments made.
UPDATED Vaccination bookings.
A better day for VCH – thousands not hundreds
VIHA – 2487
FHA – 3568
IHA – 2549
VCH – 3103
NHA – 639
TOTAL – 12,346
(Yesterday: VIHA – 2,395, FHA – 8,722, IHA – 2,456, VCH – 369, NHA – 1,007, Total – 14,949)#bcpoli #covid19 @news1130
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) March 10, 2021
Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday that TELUS failed to meet expectations for staffing at the Vancouver Coastal call centre. He said the company promised it was ready to go, even as late as 9 p.m. on Sunday, the evening before the first day of phone bookings.
“They said they would deliver the services necessary [Monday] and through this week and through the coming weeks. They did not meet their contractual obligation,” he said Tuesday.
TELUS issued a statement, saying it is “incredibly sorry,” adding “we can and will do better.”
The statement from President and CEO Darren Entwistle says there was an “unprecedented demand” and the company has bumped up the number of agents taking calls.
-With files from Liza Yuzda and Hana Mae Nassar