Dr. David Zitner wrote an op ed in The Chronicle Herald titled NSHA seems to specialize in inconveniencing patients. Zitner is bang on.
Zitner wrote, “If there’s any way to inconvenience patients and embrace antiquated methods, the Nova Scotia Health Authority will find it.
“Ask the sick patients who are trying to arrange appointments with specialists, or for imaging tests or for blood work.
“Most enterprises try to encourage and support increased consumer access to worthwhile services. Not the Nova Scotia Health Authority!
“Try to book an appointment for an X-ray or blood tests. In the past, you were given a requisition. For most tests, your doctor’s office made an appointment, or you just marched off to the hospital or laboratory, waited for a long or short time, and then had the test.
“Now, in the Internet age, you’re given a phone number to call to book blood tests or imaging investigations.” And the NSHA’s phone system makes it a herculean effort to reach them.
The NSHA’s senior director pathology and laboratory medicine, Shauna Thompson, told the CBC on September 14 that the phone system was “incredibly frustrating”. She also said, “our number one priority is to improve the patient experience…” She ended her interview by saying an on-line booking option is coming … by end of year!
We are eight months into this pandemic, how is that not enough time for the NSHA to have identified the problem and resolved it? And even after eight months the NSHA needs three or four more months to offer a better way to contact them. That’s absurd.
The NSHA’s cavalier attitude is amplified by a June 24th, 2020 post to their website. The post NSHA working to address issues with blood collection appointment telephone booking process says “Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) is working to address issues and delays people are currently experiencing when they call to book a blood collection appointment.
“We know patients are having difficulty getting through our phone lines to make an appointment for blood collection,” said Shauna Thompson, NSHA Senior Director, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “This is very frustrating for callers. We sincerely want to apologize for these current delays, and ask for your patience while we work to address the issue, and improve the appointment booking service.”
Make comforting sounds and hope people don’t pay attention to their lack of action is how the NSHA operates.
In the three months since the NSHA posted their empathetic message what have they done? How is it that a vital service like the health authority seems to use an archaic phone system? And why can’t their provider do an immediate upgrade? How is there not an off-the-shelf phone solution?
The NSHA is always “working on”, “looking into”, “investigating” solutions, but we see precious little in the way of results. If the NSHA can’t find a fix for their phone system first in four months, then after eight months what else can’t they do?
Unbelievably the NSHA’s phone system doesn’t always accept you into a call-waiting queue. With the NSHA you can get a busy signal or a message to call again later!
My first-hand experience attempting to book an appointment shows patients need a level of tenacity that may be beyond most people’s patience.
On August 18 I had to book an appointment to have blood drawn at Valley Regional Hospital. On my third call I started to write down what was happening:
Calls 1 & 2 – busy signal
Calls 3 & 4 – message to try later
Call 5 – busy signal
Call 6 – message to try later
Calls 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 – busy signals
Calls 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 – message to try later
Call 19 – busy signal
Call 20 – message to try later
Calls 21, 22 – busy signal
Call 23 – message to try later
Calls 24, 25 – busy signal
Calls 26, 27 – message to call later
Call 28 – managed to get into a phone queue. It took 1 hour, 29 minutes before I spoke with a person who booked an appointment for August 31. In total I was on the phone for two hours and 11 minutes.
And then on August 31 when I arrived at VRH I was told they had no record of the appointment! And couldn’t fit me in!! I eventually got an appointment for September 11! That’s 25 days to have a blood test. How many people can become seriously ill in such delays?
Since the Nova Scotia Health Authority can’t handle the call volumes, the solution is block booking appointments. Rather than call the NSHA, I suggest people call your MLA’s office and have them create lists of constituents needing appointments. MLAs and their staff could make one or two calls a day on behalf of dozens of constituents needing medical appointments then confirm details with constituents.
That would reduce call volume and ease frustrations. And provide a further back up for lost appointments like mine.