'Profoundly disappointed’: B.C. apologizes for COVID-19 call centre chaos, blames Telus
VICTORIA -- The government of B.C. is in damage-control mode after a chaotic rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine call centre program.
On Monday, nearly two million calls overwhelmed call centres staffed by local health authorities and Telus, which is contracted by the province.
This week, seniors 90 years old and over and Indigenous people 65 and over were eligible to make appointments over the phone.
Almost instantly, the dial-in process faced harsh criticism as thousands only heard a recorded message telling them to hang up and try again.
Some on Vancouver Island spent hours calling hundreds of times without ever connecting with an agent who could get them a COVID-19 immunization.
On Tuesday, the province said its process was flawed, but also blamed Telus.
"Those call centre services were inadequate yesterday in spite of repeated promises to us," said Health Minister Adrian Dix.
The BC Liberals demanded to see the contracts with Telus on Tuesday after the Vancouver Coastal Health authority was only able to book vaccination appointments for 369 seniors.
The Vancouver Island Health Authority, which partially used its own call centres, was able to book 2,456 appointments on Monday.
Premier John Horgan reacted at a press conference Tuesday, saying he was "profoundly disappointed.”
"That's the responsibility of government to make sure we have the people and infrastructure in place," Horgan said.
Telus has also apologized for the sluggish rollout and is vowing to quickly ramp up services for seniors through the end of the week.
“By this afternoon, we will have more than 250 agents taking calls, for a total of 550 agents working today, and hundreds more being added in real time," said Telus CEO Darren Entwistle in a statement.
Next week, call centres will begin booking appointments for seniors 85 and over.
Online booking systems are not expected to be up and running in B.C. until April 12.
The BC Liberals are now pressing the province to be transparent on whether or not the online system will face the same fate when it goes public.