Nova Scotia

Blood collection appointments move online after phone calls swamp system

Some patients have expressed frustration with busy signals when trying to book blood tests by phone, which health officials blamed on too many patients calling to book at peak times.

Appointments can still be made over the phone

Some patients have expressed frustration with busy signals when trying to book blood tests by phone during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority is expanding its online booking service for blood collection appointments. 

COVID-19 has curtailed blood collection for medical tests in Nova Scotia, with some hospitals shutting down blood collection services and others seeing only urgent and essential cases.

Some patients have expressed frustration with busy signals when trying to book blood tests by phone. Health officials have blamed the problem on too many patients calling to book at peak times.

The NSHA's central zone received about 49,000 calls alone during one week in August and the province even added more phone lines to try to alleviate the problem.

"They really had a lot of difficulty trying to get through to the phone line," said Shauna Thompson, senior director of pathology and laboratory medicine in the NSHA. "Multiple calls, waiting on hold. And in some cases folks had needed to book an appointment urgently."

Thompson said she hopes moving to online booking will alleviate the entire backlog in the coming weeks. 

Online booking in the Halifax region, Truro

Thompson said online booking is already available at the Woodlawn blood collection in Dartmouth and at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro.

She said online bookings will be activated on Wednesday for the Dartmouth General Hospital and the Lloyd E. Matheson Centre in Elmsdale. 

She said she hopes to have all 63 of the province's blood collection centres connected to online bookings by the end of this year. 

In the meantime, Thompson said patients can check online to see if online booking is available at their preferred location.

Patients without internet service will still be able to book by phone.

X-ray appointments to follow

Thompson said she'll add X-ray appointments to the system once the online system for blood appointments is perfected.

She said online bookings will also be extended to the IWK Health Centre, the region's children's hospital.

Thompson said reducing the amount of phone calls will also free up workers for other aspects of the health system's COVID-19 response. 

"We've hired a large volume of staff to manage those phone lines. So absolutely, we need to redeploy those resources elsewhere to help us," she said. 

now