Hamilton Public Health Services is apologizing for the “distress” that has been caused by the failure of the telephone system that was established to allow the 85-year-old population to make their COVID vaccination appointments. The Hamilton Spectator ran a story Tuesday detailing stories of seniors who tried to get through dozens, even hundreds of times to make their appointments without success.
In a statement Public Health says, “HPHS and the City’s IT team continue to work with the telecom service provider to increase capacity to handle a higher volume of calls. HPHS has both extended the hotline hours to 9 pm and increased the number of staff answering calls. These actions should help to reduce wait times, however HPHS continues to monitor in case additional action is needed as call volumes remain very high.”
Tentative vaccination schedule for other age groups
The release says the province is working on providing public health units with a booking tool to launch on March 15. Once this is ready, the following age groups will become eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccination: 3rd week of March for those 80 years old or older, April 15th for those aged 75+, May 1st for those aged 70+, June 1st for those aged 65+, and July 1st for those 60 and older.
Those not 85 years and older, should not be calling to register for a vaccine at this time. Information regarding registration, booking, and sequencing will be available on the COVID-19 vaccines section of the City’s website at www.hamilton.ca/COVIDvaccines.
Meanwhile the shelter system continues to see a rise in COVID positive individuals and outbreaks, including a growing outbreak at Salvation Army Booth Centre. Hamilton has opened a second temporary isolation shelter at Central Memorial Recreation Centre in an effort to provide more physical distancing and help reduce the spread of the virus.
Redeployment of staff to roll out vaccination clinics
With the vaccine clinics beginning to ramp up, the City will be redeploying and hiring additional staff to accommodate a seven-day, 12 hour per day operation. Redeployments will be strategic to ensure essential services and other pandemic response efforts are not impacted. However, there will be some impacts to City services, including:
• All museums will remain closed, except for Dundurn Castle and Military Museum, which is targeting to re-open by the end of March.
• Flamborough, Stoney Creek, Ancaster, Glanbrook and Dundas Municipal Service Centres will close to the public when staff are redeployed.
• In the Forestry program there will be a reduction in proactive tree maintenance and resident requests for service will be prioritized for potential risk to people and property. There will be delays in responding to non-hazardous calls until back to full staffing. Around-the-clock response to storm damage will remain, but as always calls will be prioritized based on risk to public and property.