The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors across the province struggled to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments last week.
“We have heard from seniors and their family members that the stress of trying to book appointments this week added to what is already an extremely trying time,” said Dr. Verna Yiu.
“I want to publicly and personally apologize to anyone who experienced frustration, anger, or worry over what should be a hopeful time in the pandemic response.”
On Wednesday, AHS opened its 811 phone line and website so Albertans 75 and up can book COVID-19 vaccine appointments. But on that day, phone lines were swamped and the website crashed.
Yiu said AHS made “an error in judgement” in how the online booking system was tested.
“We underestimated the number of Albertans 75 years and over who would call 811 and go online to book at launch time. We had planned for tens of thousands at a time, and demand far exceeded that, leading to technical issues that took several hours to resolve,” said Yiu.
“The technical issues have been fixed, a queuing waiting room is in place, and the system is stable. We also acknowledge the public confidence in our ability to deliver immunizations has been shaken.”
There has also been long lineups at several immunization clinics, she added.
“No one wants to line up outside in the Alberta winter, and no one should,” said Yiu.
“Everyone who has an appointment is being vaccinated, and we have put in place better line management and process at the sites to encourage people to wait in their vehicles until their time slot.
“Some of the clinics are behind schedule because we are taking time with each person, and we may need to extend the 10-minute allotment for each immunization. We are looking at that, and learning how to be efficient, caring, and respectful of all Albertans.”
More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. More than of 12,000 of these seniors, aged 75 and over, have been immunized.