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Health minister blames Telus after B.C. vaccine booking call centres overwhelmed – Burnaby Now

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VICTORIA — British Columbia is blaming Telus after call centres for COVID-19 vaccine appointments were overwhelmed, while the province also faces criticism over the lack of an online booking platform.

Premier John Horgan said Tuesday that the government takes “full responsibility” for the system being overloaded but the contractor has acknowledged it failed to meet expectations.

Horgan said he’s “profoundly disappointed” that one health authority did not have a backup call centre and relied solely on the one provided by Telus, resulting in jammed phone lines.

“We had a bad day yesterday,” Horgan said. “We being all British Columbians that live in Vancouver Coastal Health. We’re taking steps today to correct that.”

Horgan said the province was not prepared for 1.7 million calls within the first three hours of the system opening for people aged 90 and up as well as First Nations residents over 65.

Health Minister Adrian Dix has said about 80,000 people are in those categories, but about 26,000 of those have already received a shot in a care home or another setting.

Just under 15,000 appointments were booked Monday, as many frustrated residents reported getting a busy signal or a recorded message telling them to call back later. 

Fraser Health was the only authority with an online option for booking appointments and 8,722 were made there, while the Interior and Vancouver Island health authorities each recorded just under 2,500 bookings and residents in the north made just over 1,000.

Only 369 bookings were made in Vancouver Coastal, and Dix said that’s because it was the only authority without a backup call centre to support the one provided by Telus.

However, he said Telus should be held accountable for the failure in that region.

“Vancouver Coastal Health … is in the business of providing health care,” Dix said.

“They contracted with a provider who is in the call centre business. That provider let them, but more importantly let people over 90 and over 65, down yesterday.”

Dix said the company repeatedly assured the province, even as late as 9 p.m. Sunday night, the call centres were adequately staffed. However, he said he believes the number of people committed to the centres by Telus “simply were not there” on Monday.

The staffing issues were compounded by technical problems, he said.

“To say that I’m disappointed or frustrated is an understatement,” Dix said. “People should be mad that the service provider didn’t come through here.”

More people were trained overnight and on Tuesday to answer calls, including about 100 people in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, he said.

Those who call this week are scheduling appointments for next week. Every week, a new age group is set to become eligible, so the demand on the system is expected to increase.

Dix said if Telus is “unable to deliver,” then B.C. is actively looking at alternatives.

Telus president Darren Entwistle said in a statement he is “incredibly sorry” for the frustrations that residents have experienced and the company can and will do better.

“Our team has been working around the clock to scale capacity and respond to the unprecedented demand,” he said.

Entwistle says Telus promised to have 156 agents answering calls at all times to schedule vaccinations across the province. By Tuesday afternoon, it will have more than 250 agents taking calls.

“We will ensure that all eligible British Columbians can book their vaccine in the time frame set out by the province.”

However, many residents trying to book appointments have questioned why Fraser Health was the only authority with an active online booking platform.

Dix has said that call centres are the focus of booking at this time because of the advanced age of those eligible, but a provincewide web-based system will be ready on April 12.

The minister did not directly answer questions on Tuesday about why the province did not begin work on an online platform months earlier to have it ready for this week.

“There will be a provincewide system in place. We want to make sure it’s ready and it works,” he said. “What we need to do this week is get everyone the appointments they need for next week.”

Another 550 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the province on Tuesday with two more deaths. 

“Today marks a sombre milestone: one year since the first person in British Columbia died as a result of COVID-19,” said a joint statement from Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Another 182 cases have been confirmed as variants of concern for a total of 576 cases, most of them are linked to the strain first found in the United Kingdom, the statement said. 

— By Laura Dhillon Kane in Vancouver

— With files from Camille Bains in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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‘I was shocked’: Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Comox Valley Record

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A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family.

The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.

Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.

Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.

She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”

Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.

Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five.

Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.

Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.

“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.

“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”

Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced.

Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor.

For Bardarson, that’s not enough.

“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”

Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations.

She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.

Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.

Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.

– Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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Two hippos in Belgian zoo test positive for COVID-19

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Two hippos have tested positive for COVID-19 at Antwerp Zoo in Belgium in what could be the first reported cases in the species, zoo staff said.

Hippos Imani, aged 14, and 41-year-old Hermien have no symptoms apart from a runny nose, but the zoo said the pair had been put into quarantine as a precaution.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time in this species. Worldwide, this virus has been reported mainly in great apes and felines,” said the zoo’s vet, Francis Vercammen.

The coronavirus is thought to have jumped from an animal to a human, and it is proved to have passed from humans to animals.

Pets including cats, dogs and ferrets have become infected following contact with their owners, while in zoos, cases have been reported in animals such as big cats, otters, primates and hyenas.

The disease has also spread in mink farms and to wild animals, such as deer.

Antwerp Zoo is investigating the causes of the contagion. None of the zookeepers had recently shown COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for the virus, the zoo said.

 

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Helen Popper)

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'I was shocked': Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Squamish Chief

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WINNIPEG — A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family. 

The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.

Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.

Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.

She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”

Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.

Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five. 

Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.

Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.

“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.

“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”

Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced. 

Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor. 

For Bardarson, that’s not enough.

“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”

Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations. 

She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.

Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.

Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.

___

The story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press


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