"I think I dialled over 400 times": Woman frustrated by VCH COVID-19 vaccination booking system

Mar 9 2021, 9:03 pm

A woman in the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region is voicing her disappointment and frustration after trying to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment through the recently-launched call centres.

Meena Sandhu is struggling to secure an appointment for her 93-year-old grandmother. She tells Daily Hive that she spent most of Monday calling into a busy signal, and she hasn’t gotten through today either.

“She’s not an English speaker, and she needs help with the booking,” Sandhu explains in an interview. “I think I dialled over 400 times, and by 4 pm, the message on the line was ‘we are now closed for the day.'”

Like many others, Sandhu is wondering why a booking website has only been launched for the Fraser Health region. She adds that while the process is frustrating, she’s also not surprised at the difficulty in trying to book an appointment through the phone.

“It’s unacceptable after being in a pandemic for a year that they couldn’t put together a website for registration,” Sandhu says. “On Fraser Health, it takes two minutes to book an appointment.”

“This is really what people were expecting when they announced that there would be a phone registration. Everybody I talked to said, ‘Oh God, this is going to be a crapshoot.'”

Sandhu’s grandmother typically splits her time living at the homes of her two daughters — and while she’s currently living in the Fraser Health region, her registered address is in Vancouver Coastal Health. Adding another layer of complication, it meant that Sandhu couldn’t use Fraser Health’s online booking system since her identification doesn’t show the same address.

“I did try to book an appointment for her online, but I think she’ll get turned away by Fraser Health because her ID doesn’t show that same address.”

Sandhu believes that the backlog in calls will only continue to grow and that unless online booking systems are launched throughout the province, many appointments will go unused.

“I think there are appointments, and they’re going to remain empty because nobody is getting through to book them,” she argues. “And every week, they’re going to allow more and more people to call, which means the lines are only going to get worse.”

“I think the government needs to report on how many available appointments were not used in the first two weeks of vaccine availability — they need to fess up to how many slots were not used.”

Sandhu adds that she’s currently on maternity leave, and had it not been for the pandemic, she and her young children would be spending quality time with her grandmother.

“That’s not the government’s fault, they can’t control a pandemic happening. But they can help us get back on track to normal life sooner. And this is where the frustration is coming from, it’s really, really disappointing.”

Health officials announced that by Monday morning, just before 10 am, approximately 1.7 million calls had been received across the province. By the end of the day, 14,949 appointments were booked in BC, but only 369 of those were in Vancouver Coastal Health.

Premier John Horgan addressed the concerns during a press conference saying that he was “profoundly disappointed” and takes “full responsibility.”

Sandhu says that she wants to see answers and an action plan from the provincial government on how they intend to get bookings and vaccinations back on track. And until she manages to get through, or another alternative is found, she has “no other choice” but to keep calling.

“If they say they’re going to get the population of BC vaccinated by July, I don’t see that happening.”

Daily Hive has reached out to Vancouver Coastal Health and the BC Government for additional comment. 

Vincent PlanaVincent Plana

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