A pharmacist prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a pharmacy prototype clinic in Halifax on March 9, 2021. The CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

A pharmacist prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a pharmacy prototype clinic in Halifax on March 9, 2021. The CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

B.C. government won’t release Telus contract on vaccine appointment call centres

Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix were repeatedly asked during question period

British Columbia’s premier and health minister refused to directly answer questions Wednesday about the government’s contract with Telus, the provider whose call centres for COVID-19 vaccine appointments got off to a chaotic start.

The Opposition Liberals repeatedly asked Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix during question period to release the contract and to provide basic information including its monetary value and the number of staff promised to the centres.

Both Horgan and Dix did not provide specifics, but instead repeated earlier remarks that Monday was a “bad day,” when Vancouver Coastal Health was only able to book 369 appointments, but that steps have been taken to improve the situation.

“People have bad days all the time,” Horgan said. “I’m fairly confident that Wayne Gretzky didn’t score in every game he played in, but he kept getting on the ice and doing the best he could. That’s exactly what we did in Vancouver Coastal Health.”

The health authority was the only one that did not have a backup call centre to the system provided by Telus. More staff were added and 4,000 appointments were booked in Vancouver Coastal on Tuesday and 2,500 more as of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dix said.

Telus apologized for the performance of the call centres on Monday, when residents 90 and up and Indigenous people over 65 became eligible to book appointments, but many experienced repeated busy signals and messages telling them to call back later.

The company has said it was asked to provide 156 agents to answer calls at all times across the province, and it increased that number to 250 by Tuesday afternoon.

RELATED: B.C. minister blasts Telus performance on 90-plus vaccine appointments

The Opposition Liberals said only 33 call-takers were originally assigned to Vancouver Coastal — the second-largest authority in the province.

The Liberals asked why the government thought it would be an adequate level of staff as well as who signed the contract and when.

Liberal Renee Merrifield, a member of the legislature for Kelowna-Mission elected last fall, called on the premier to take full responsibility for the “botched” rollout of the system.

“I fully appreciate that accountability ends with me,” Horgan said. “If that doesn’t meet the bar set by the newly minted member for Kelowna, I apologize to her as well.”

Dix said that 35,500 appointments have been booked over the past three days. He has previously said about 54,000 people are eligible to book this week.

He said each health authority signed an agreement with Telus to provide call centre capacity under a long-standing master agreement with the company.

“It’s natural that we would turn to an outstanding provider such as Telus to do this,” Dix said.

The minister added that Telus president Darren Entwistle has “personally” driven the effort over the past two days to make things right.

BC HealthCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pastor Cliff Siebert of the Okanagan Landing Community Church (centre) addresses some of his congregation in-person for the first time in many months Sunday, April 18, as the church held the first of what they hope will be regular outdoor services with COVID protocols adhered to and obeyed. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon church hosts outdoor service

Okanagan Landing Community Church put strict COVID protocols in place to hold sermon in back parking lot

Windsurfers enjoying a windstorm on Skaha Lake in Penticton on March 28, 2021. (Sandy Steck Photography)
Wind warning issued for Okanagan Valley

Boaters are being warned of gusts up to 70 km/h by late afternoon on Sunday

Vernon Vipers forward Ryan Shostak (centre) fends off a check from Salmon Arm defenceman to get a close-in scoring attempt on Silverbacks goalie Owen Say during Vernon’s 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play shootout victory Saturday, April 17, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers photography)
Vernon Vipers use shootout to subdue Salmon Arm

Snakes score 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play win at Kal Tire Place

Coldstream Fire Department crews stationed at Kal Lake Provincial Park parking lot on Cosens Bay Road on Sunday, April 18, after a car went over a cliff in the area. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Driver escapes after car goes over cliff in Coldstream near Kal Lake Park

The driver has been transported to hospital with unspecified injuries

A GoFundMe page has been launched for a Vernon man whose BX orchard property home off Pleasant Valley Road near Stickle Road was totally destroyed in a fire Saturday, April 17. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Fundraising campaign launched for Vernon man who lost home to fire

A GoFundMe page has been started by family; man taken to hospital with injuries from fire

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Kelowna Pride Festival 2019 participant holds up a flag. (Kelowna Pride Society)
Kelowna Pride, RCMP continue to work on ‘Safe Place Program’

A new committee has been formed to refine the ‘Safe Place Program’ created by the Kelowna RCMP

A strange odour at a West Kelowna apartment building prompted the evacuation of 150 residents on Sunday morning, April 18. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Strange smell at West Kelowna apartment prompts evacuation of 150 residents, pets

150 residents ordered evacuated from a West Kelowna apartment building early Sunday morning

This is what’s left of a truck that caught fire at Pyramid Provincial Park off Highway 97 near Summerland Saturday night. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Photo Gallery: Truck gutted by fire at popular Okanagan park, trees saved

Just a metal shell of what once was a pick up truck is left at the scene

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Most Read