Monday, 20 January 2014

Flu Shot Down

All I had wanted to do was write an article on flu shots.  It was timely, relevant, and as a local woman recently died of H1N1, it was a local story as well.  It’s the time of year when many people are getting vaccinated and information should be widely available.  So why was no one willing to talk to me?

(Image source: CTV Atlantic)

Each place I called, I asked for a pharmacist or nurse or anyone who could answer my flu shot questions.

I could accept that the school clinic didn't even pick up the phone.  They're always very busy and now that the school is on strike, people are probably going to get flu shots because they have nothing else to do.

Shoppers Drug Mart #1 didn't have time for me.  Fine, I guess.  It is flu season.  I was a little miffed that whoever picked up the phone got quite impatient when I asked if there was another day I could come in.

Shoppers #2 said plain and simple that the pharmacist couldn't speak to me.  Trying to be assertive, I politely said, "Can I ask why not?"  "Because he doesn't have time for you!" snapped the woman on the other end.

To Shoppers #3's credit, they were the most helpful, though it still got me nowhere, and included a lot of time being spent on hold.  Fortunately the on-hold music consisted of Sugar Ray, Coldplay, and Hoobastank.  Finally someone in the pharmacy picks up, and after I explained why I was calling, hands me to the pharmacist.  I told him about my article idea, and he told me that I need to speak to media relations.  That's fair.  He said that media relations have probably got some sort of press release that they would be willing to share with me.  I was to call the toll free number and ask for Tammy.

I call and a guy who didn't sound much older than me picked up.  I asked for Tammy.  He gave me Tammy's number.  Perhaps it was my heightened frustration from playing phone tag and getting nowhere, but this guy sounded like some dude bro who only gave me Tammy's number because he couldn't be bothered to put me through to her himself.

Just put me through to Tammy, asshat.

My breaking point came when I realized that Tammy's number was an Ontario number.  I am not in Ontario.  That means it's long distance.  If you knew how unnaturally difficult it is to get long distance set up in my dorm, you would understand why I didn't even bother doing it this year (Bell is actually the spawn of the devil when it comes to service.  You would not believe how difficult it was to get long distance set up last year.  I could go on and on about Bell, but I digress).

I swore loudly, punched my closet, and burst into uncontrollable sobbing.  I turned into a basket case for a good 45 minutes at least.

I Skyped Mum, who, being a person who was not currently a basket case, told me I should try calling the Department of Health.  Great idea!

Except, no, still not helpful.  I got stuck in an infinite phone loop in which everyone I called referred me to someone else to answer my questions.

My calls were redirected to places including, but not limited to, Public Health Clinics, the hospital, Health Services from the next town over, and Horizon Health Network.  I was always given to someone else, or given two or three numbers to try.  No one could, or no one was willing to, answer my questions.

But here's the kicker right here folks.  I was often referred to the toll free Horizon Health Network Media Relations number.  I was saving it until last because I was hoping for local people to talk to.  Finally I called.  I didn't get a switch board, I didn't get put on hold, and I didn't get a dude bro representative.  I got the answering machine of a woman saying she was out of the office but if you still needed help to call--get this--the toll free number.  The same toll free number that I had just called.


Utterly baffled, I called back to one of the numbers I had called before, only to get an answering machine that suggested I call--you guessed it--THE SAME TOLL FREE NUMBER.

I left an awkward message that said how confused I was and that I didn't understand who to call at that point.  I left messages with several different people.  Not a single person returned my call.

I don't know, I just find it a little disconcerting that no one will share any information with me on public health issues.  Not all of the questions I have are ones that I can Google.  Some need to be answered to me personally by a professional.

This isn't over yet.  I will call and visit and leave messages until someone gets back to me.  They may be sick of hearing from me, but I will hear back.


  1. It could appear like there is almost something being hidden from the public. Something our health services do not want us to know about. That is if you are a government conspiracy nut.

    In reality this appears to be a case of people that just have no sense of customer service skills and a lack of communication.

    When you were trying to talk to the number of pharmacists and they were either too busy or simply directed you somewhere else, this tells me that they really do not care about the people they serve. This is just a job and they punch a clock like everyone else. Gone are the days of pharmacists who knew you by name and would take the time of day for you.

    As for the lack of communication, the endless phone loop leads me to believe that within our health care organization, the people we rely on apparently do not even know their own job description. When the service directs us to an individual and that individual inadvertently directs you back to themself,, without knowing it, tells me that this person does not even know their own job.

    Personally, that scares me because these are the people in charge of your, your readers, and my own health. It is like a pilot, flying his jumbo jet, turning to the stewardess and asking if she is the pilot! At that point, to qoute Dennis Leary, "Smoke'em if you got'em folks!".

    Overall, I feel your frustration because after this I too am frustrated by the system. Let us, your readers, know how it turns out.

    1. I absolutely agree with you. It's most definitely a customer service problem and a communications problem. It scares me too that these people are in charge, have some authority over, or are at the very least representing our health care system.

      For what it's worth, I'm not a government conspiracy nut (though I can see a part in this post that sounds a little conspiracy-ish). However, I think we can agree that when the government's department of health can't answer my health questions, for whatever reason, there is cause for concern. Hiding things from the public or not, they need to get it together.