558 Manitoba health-care workers with COVID-19 vaccination appointments given wrong address

More than 500 health-care workers who have appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday in Brandon, Man., received appointment reminder texts 48 hours before, telling them to go to the wrong address.

The texts they received Saturday gave the address of the Winnipeg vaccination supersite at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg, rather than the address of Brandon’s Keystone Centre, where a new supersite is set to open Monday.

This is the second time the private company that has been contracted to provide the service has made a factual error in less than a month, and the Manitoba New Democrats are concerned about the ramifications.

“On one level, you know, potentially the government sent people two hours down the highway in the wrong direction,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew in an interview on Sunday. 

“But I think on another level, you have in this mistake all of the repeated failures that we’ve seen from the peak during the pandemic, which is a failure to plan, the lack of attention to detail and rush to privatize things at the expense of quality.”

The new COVID-19 vaccination supersite is located at the Keystone Centre in Brandon. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Earlier this month, the province said a communication error saw 871 people with vaccination appointments receive texts with the incorrect location information of the Winnipeg supersite at the RBC Convention Centre.

“Unfortunately, it’s caused unnecessary confusion for health-care workers and other folks who qualify to get to the vaccine, who should have had a seamless experience at the vaccine site,” Kinew said.

A spokesperson from the province says they’ve dealt with the error.

“The human error was quickly addressed by a follow-up text. Government is conducting a review to ensure the service provider is held accountable and that the mistake does not occur again,” the spokesperson stated in an email Sunday.

PetalMD is the company in charge of sending the reminder texts. It’s the recipient of a $436,000 contract, according to a disclosure form on the province’s website.

The province did not respond to a question about how the health-care software company came to receive the contract, but the NDP alleges that a backroom deal was struck to hire PetalMD, and the opposition wasn’t involved.

In a string of internal emails — which members of the NDP were copied on and then shared publicly — the government’s communications director, Blake Robert, asks about possible ramifications for the repeated mistake.

“What, if any, are the consequences for this repeat error? Some kind of contractual penalty? Credit applied to whatever government is paying for the service? Reassignment of the person responsible for the error? Or are we just shrugging our shoulders and using the Britney Spears response of “Oops! I did it again,” Robert wrote.

The NDP is calling on the government to be more accountable to the people who are getting vaccines.

“[The government] really needs to get it right when it comes to delivering the vaccines to Manitobans, which includes making sure Manitobans know to show up at the right location, and that’s on the government to fix,” Kinew said.