The health care version of the Saskatchewan way was front and centre when staff from multiple locations across the province pitched in to help Saskatoon successfully fill almost 3,000 immunization clinic appointments in early March.
Prior to the launch of the online booking tool, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) staff were tasked with reaching out to eligible seniors to fill immunization clinics across the province. In the 85-plus age category in Saskatoon alone, over 6,000 calls were required to fill approximately 2,900 open appointments over two clinic weeks. Not filling the appointments was not an option –all doses of the Pfizer vaccine had to be delivered within three days of its arrival.
“We were in transition, preparing for the online booking system but had clinics to fill prior to the go-live date for that tool,” explained Jill Kaczmar, former Team Lead, Vaccine Scheduling. Jill explained it was a test of capacity, as a year into the response, the system is strained and all areas related to COVID require support.
The process was further complicated by the length of time involved in booking appointments for the 85+ age group, who often required additional support over the phone. On average, the 15 staff booking appointments could make 75-90 calls, averaging seven minutes each, over an eight-hour shift when reaching out to younger age ranges. With the older age groups, call times often doubled, cutting the number of calls that could be completed in half.
A week before the first clinic on March 3, it became clear the vaccine booking team would not be able to fill the first day of appointments. Jennifer Cushon, Vaccination Section Chief for the Saskatoon IHICC, reached out to her colleagues across the province, asking for help from anyone who may have experience with calling and booking appointments. The Regina and Rural IHICC teams quickly responded to the request with staff from testing sites, dental health, administration, and even some Out-of-Scope (OOS) offering to help.
After providing orientation on the manual booking system to the 35 staff who responded, the new team members went straight to work, making calls from a variety of remote locations across southern Saskatchewan. Together, the virtual team capably and efficiently met the target, filling the 2,900 open appointments over six clinics in nine days.
“It was huge relief to know that people were supporting you even though they weren’t part of your immediate team.” Kaczmar said. “People helped out when they could – if that meant one or two hours in between their regular jobs, or supporting this full-time. It also alleviated pressure on our HR labour pool team, who were also working to meet clinical targets.”
“We wouldn’t have been able to proceed with certain clinics without the booking team and it was tremendous to receive support from all over the province,” Cushon summarized. “The COVID-19 vaccine campaign has provided a great opportunity to work as one system and we’re seeing the benefits of this daily.”