New phone system launched as Island Health ends online and text callback services for COVID-19 test

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WatchThere are still significant waits across the Island Heath region for some trying to get their COVID-19 test. Officials say a new system should finally help speed things up, but changes made this week only seemed to confuse those looking for help.

Island Health’s COVID-19 Testing Call Centre will now place callers into a callback list instead of putting them on hold.

Earlier this week, the health authority had launched an online form and text line for users to sign up to get a callback to arrange a COVID-19 test appointment.

But now Island Health says the callback feature online and via text has been dropped as the phone lines will be able to handle all the calls. Before, some seeking tests would get a busy message or be disconnected while waiting.

But the move caused some confusion. Those trying to text the system or access it online got a message back saying the list was closed.

Island Health says the text and online form have been discontinued, but callers already enrolled will be reached in their order

Some who are already on that list say they still had to wait hours and even days for a test.

For Greg Buckle, it’s been a difficult journey.

His 12-year-old daughter started feeling ill Sunday, and he is not allowed to go back to work until they know if she has COVID-19.

“At Wednesday around noon, we were trying to book her an appointment so she could see a doctor and get a COVID-19 test,” he said outside Victoria’s Health Unit on Friday.

“We tried dialling the 1-800 number and again we were on hold, through a link through Facebook somebody recommended we text the 1-800 join number, and initially on Wednesday afternoon, we were on [number] 630 something.”

Buckle never got a call, and Thursday was able to get a referral for a test on Friday from a primary care centre.

“At this point of the game, they should be moving a lot faster, a lot smoother, month seven we are still dealing with month one problems,” said Buckle.

And he and others are growing more concerned as delays continue.

“I worked really hard to get this test done because of my condition of employment,” he said.

“But there may be people out there where it’s not, and they are going to say they are not going to go through this process,”

Island Health says they are still dealing with several hundred calls every day and the new system should result in a faster, more efficient process.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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