Don’t just apologise, digitalise – Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh - AYANNA KINSALE
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh – AYANNA KINSALE

THE EDITOR: It’s perhaps no surprise that Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s announcement of his ministry’s abandonment of its call-in and WhatsApp appointment system in favour of a first-come first-serve walk-in scheme has led to what can only be described as last week’s vaccine pandemonium, superspreader events.

Of course, Deyalsingh has since rightly apologised for the faux pas, though perplexingly chalked it up to an underestimation of vaccine demand. This however is despite the overwhelming response via the previous appointment system, to the point that there where almost daily media reports of people complaining of appointment unavailability.

It raises the obvious question as to whether the underestimation and eventual abandonment decision was based on demand data, or simply a reflection of the political old talk and claims of vaccine hesitancy.

Surely no one can deny that the previous appointment system was inappropriately suited to the task and needed to be urgently replaced with a much less labour-intensive, error-prone and frustrating process. But was the solution to simply open the floodgates? Clearly not!

In fact, it’s my contention that the knee-jerk replacement alphabeticalised rotation system, similarly being a heavily labour-intensive one, is unworkable and bound to face the same long-lines fate, especially given the current limited vaccine supplies.

Rather, I wish to humbly recommend to the minister that a much more modern, efficient and digitally-suited online appointment system is required to appropriately match vaccine demand with vaccine supply. One only has to look at the online appointment system currently deployed by the TTMF, Licensing and other state agencies to understand its applicability.

What’s more, such a system will not only illuminate the need for patients to form lines and fill out hard-copy forms (with the contingent data entry errors which will inevitable arise), but it will also speed up the onsite vaccination process and reduce unnecessary contact and consequent risk/exposure between and amongst patients.

In other words, Mr Minister, don’t just apologise, digitalise the vaccine appointment system.


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