Fifty seconds pass before the pre-recorded message on Interior Health’s COVID-19 vaccination appointment telephone line invites Rudi Ingenhorst to press 1.
The Salmon Arm resident, who became eligible for the vaccine on Monday, March 29 (ages 73 and older), then receives another short message ending with another opportunity to press 1. Another short message, press 1. Another long message, similar to the first, press 1. And so on. Eventually, Ingenhorst is asked to wait on the line, and is then told his estimated wait time would be 15 minutes.
“It’s always 15 minutes,” said Ingenhorst after what he guessed was his 19th call since Monday morning to the 1-877-740-7747 number provided by the health authority for booking an appointment at the vaccination clinic underway at the SASCU Recreation Centre.
“At one point I got through to be in the actual waiting queue and, after 30 minutes, it simply switched over to a dial tone and said leave a message. And that was the end of that,” said Ingenhorst.
When he did manage to connect with a living person, Ingenhorst was asked for his address and was then told there were currently no available spots to book, and was asked to call back next week. He received the same response when he tried calling Tuesday morning.
“So then I went to the arena this morning to see if I could talk to somebody there,” said Ingenhorst, who was unsuccessful at securing an appointment.
“Basically, the request I have is can you not publish somewhere on a daily basis whether or not Salmon Arm is eligible for booking. Because I don’t want to spend two hours a day being told that there’s no bookings available in Salmon Arm.”
Bob White shared Ingenhorst’s frustration. Though in his 60s, White received a letter from the province identifying him as clinically extremely vulnerable. Those who received such letters could book their appointments starting March 29.
“I can’t get an appointment and need to keep calling and being kept on hold for an hour to only find out they don’t have any appointment times available at this time. So nuts,” White explained Monday morning.
White thought the government to be overwhelmed and incapable of dealing with such a massive undertaking.
This was also a concern for Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, who said his office has been inundated with similar complaints by equally frustrated residents. Like Ingenhorst, he questioned why the health authority didn’t set up an online registration system.
“I appreciate we’re 13 months in on the pandemic but, you know, even in the early days, I’m sure last spring it must have entered their minds what the vaccination roll out would look like, and there was certainly more than ample time to get an online registry up and running,” said Kyllo.
In response to White’s concerns, Interior Health, in an email to the Observer, referred to the number on the COVID-19 vaccine information page, and indicated other clinics are being added.
“Unfortunately, creating clinics to meet the demand is a work in progress,” commented the health authority. “We understand it is frustrating to have to call back, but we ask people to be patient and know that everyone will get an appointment.”
Regarding online booking, Interior Health noted that starting April 15, people may try booking an appointment using the online Get Vaccinated registration and booking tool, as well as the call centre.
Following his own disappointing unscheduled visit to the recreation centre, White emailed an update to the Observer on Wednesday, stating his perseverance had paid off and he was able to book an appointment for April 18.
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