Northland District Health Board has apologised for issues with its Covid-19 vaccination programme, that have seen some people spending hours on the 0800 booking number and still not getting an appointment.
The DHB says the demand has been huge, outstripping the supply and crashing its 0800 booking number, the Auckland booking system and the NDHB email system, but says the lengthy delays should now be over.
NDHB started vaccinating those aged over 50 in the region last month in an effort to reduce waste and increase the availability of the vaccine.
But the rollout has been fraught with problems, with many people complaining about the length of time they are spending on the phone - some trying numerous times over several days - or that the email address given did not respond with an appointment.
NDHB said last week that improvements had been made to rectify this, including the 0800 237 829 number to book an appointment being manned by Healthline as of 8am last Friday, with the backlog of emails expected to be cleared by the end of Friday.
However, the Northern Advocate has received dozens of calls from frustrated people this week who said the system was still a shambles with some again trying for days to book an appointment. Some have described it as a debacle, saying NDHB should have anticipated there would be huge demand for the vaccines and had more people on from the start to take bookings.
Several said that when they did finally get through on the 0800 number they were told that they could not book an appointment in Northland. One was told she could get a vaccine appointment in South Auckland.
One woman spent three days trying the 0800 number, once being put through to the Counties Manukau DHB and told to ring back. Finally the call was answered only for her to spend 40 minutes on hold trying to book her and her husband's second shot as instructed at the 21-day optimal time.
She was informed that this was impossible as she had been downgraded from level 2 to level 3 and as such would eligible after the June 1.
NDHB CEO Dr Nick Chamberlain hoped the backlog would be cleared by today.
''Firstly, my apologies for the issues we have had with our booking systems over the last couple of weeks,'' Chamberlain said.
''We have already given nearly 14,000 vaccinations, and 7 per cent of our over 15-year-old population have received their first vaccine, which is one of the highest coverage rates in NZ and places NDHB one of the best performing DHB's.
''However, as you'll be aware, over the past 10 days, the demand for Covid-19 vaccination has outstripped supply. Although the response is heartening, it has crashed both our 0800 number, the Auckland booking system and our email system.''
NDHB tried to address the issues by commissioning a national call centre that has been operational since last Friday.
''I know there have been further teething problems, but (on Monday) over 2500 calls were answered,'' Chamberlain said.
On Tuesday, a team of 23 NDHB staff started calling back all of those who have either called the 0800 or sent an email and not yet received a booking.
''We are also working on being one of the first regions to adopt the national booking system when available later this month. Starting this weekend, there will be proactive follow up from the call centre where we invite Māori and over 65s and prioritise their appointments,'' he said.
As of Tuesday:
■ 13,946 vaccination doses had been administered in Northland.
■ 10,894 people have received their first dose of the vaccine; 3052 have completed their
■ 1300 residents of eight aged care facilities across Northland have been vaccinated.