B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix takes questions in the legislature by video link from his office, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix takes questions in the legislature by video link from his office, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)

B.C. minister blasts Telus performance on 90-plus vaccine appointments

Telus CEO says hundreds more call centre agents are being added

B.C. health authorities are assigning additional staff to respond to pressure of thousands of callers seeking COVID-19 vaccine appointments, and expects Telus to live up to its contract to get the job done, Health Minister Adrian Dix says.

Dix told the B.C. legislature Monday that there was a particular failure to keep up with demand in the Vancouver Coastal Health region on the first day of booking for community residents aged 90 and up and Indigenous people aged 65 and up. He singled out Telus, which had no backup call centre service from Vancouver Coastal as the other four health regions have, and promised to “hold them accountable” for their performance.

“That contractor, Telus, failed us yesterday,” Dix said March 9, adding that the government’s main phone contractor has given assurances it will meet its obligations.

Telus CEO Darren Entwistle issued a statement Tuesday apologizing for the first-day performance, adding that by Tuesday afternoon it will have 250 agents taking calls, with hundreds more to come as the vaccine program ramps up.

“We know how crucial the vaccine rollout is for British Columbia, and we are incredibly sorry for the frustrations that British Columbians have experienced trying to connect to the call centres,” Entwistle said. “We can and will do better, and we are working diligently to make this right.”

The opening of phone appointments for all five regions Monday morning saw a huge rush of calls, with 1.7 million separate calls recorded in three hours. There are about 50,000 of the most elderly people eligible to make appointments this week, with vaccine clinics to begin next week and a larger group aged 85 and up invited to begin calling starting Monday, March 15. Details of the age-based system and phone numbers for each authority are available here.

Dix noted that 15,000 of the 50,000 eligible people did book appointments Monday, and response in Fraser Health, Interior Health, Island Health and Northern Health was “OK but not great” the first day. More than half of those successful bookings were in Fraser Health, the only region that was able to have an online booking system in place.

Story continues below

Dix said all five health authorities expect to have online booking in place by April, when the larger groups in the lower age groups become eligible. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the online system is an urgent priority.

“I think we need to be aware that there is quite a large project in terms of developing a seamless online and phone system for April,” Henry said Monday. “Obviously we wanted it to be ready for weeks ago, but it does take time to get those things together. Fraser Health is the only health authority that had that type of an online booking system that was robust enough at this point.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Dease Lake Airport is receiving $11-million in upgrades funded by the province, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and mining companies. (British Columbia Aviation Council)
Major upgrades coming to Dease Lake Airport

Airport to receive $11-million from the province, regional district and mining companies

Dianna Plouffe, right, with Mayor Gladys Atrill in front of Town Hall following the announcement she will be the new CAO> (Facebook photo)
Director of corporate services named Smithers CAO

Dianna Plouffe replaces Alan Harris who is retiring at the end of April

Mabel Todd, 83, of the Nak’azdli First Nation, leads a group of family members and advocates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as they walk along the so-called Highway of Tears in Witset. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Province, feds fund full cell service along ‘Highway of Tears’ following years of advocacy

A ‘critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies’ after at least 10 Indigenous women murdered, missing along the route

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read