Toronto hospital website crashes under surge of demand for COVID test appointments
Getting an appointment at a COVID-19 assessment centre in Toronto right now is akin to scoring OVO Fest tickets without a presale code: frustrating, difficult, and incredibly competitive.
Demand is as high as it was expected to be, based on the ridiculously long lines spotted outside local hospitals in recent weeks, and it's not expected to dissipate any time soon now that we've officially hit the pandemic's long-dreaded second wave.
The outdoor queues may be gone, but only because they've moved to phone lines and online booking platforms — some of which aren't equipped to handle such massive surges of traffic.
Trying to find a place to do a COVID test for a friend and websites are down, lines are all busy. What a nightmare.— Ornella😷 (@so_sofia_rm) October 6, 2020
Unlike Ticketmaster, which, for all its faults, has the infrastructure in place to support a flood of users (most of the time), hospital websites are... well, they're websites for hospitals: heavy on logistical information, light on e-commerce modules.
"Due to the high volume of visitors on our website to book an appointment for COVID-19 testing, we are currently experiencing technical difficulties," wrote Scarborough Health Network in a since-deleted tweet on Tuesday morning.
"We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to resolve it."
The website is back up now for appoinrment pre-registration only.
Just confirmed a COVID testing appointment for child at local hospital when they opened up a new block of spots and I feel like I won Lotto 649.— Evan Munday (@idontlikemunday) October 5, 2020
To be fair, hospitals didn't have much time to prepare for the rush on appointments: Premier Doug Ford only announced the new policy on Friday.
Some hospital networks, like Unity Health (St. Joseph's and St. Michael's) University Health Network (Toronto Western, Toronto General), and Toronto East Health Network (Michael Garron) were quick to launch smooth online booking tools.
Others are doing things differently: Humber River Hospital, for instance, is only taking appointments by phone.
Of the dozen Toronto Covid testing websites I visited at the crack of dawn this morning in my unsuccessful attempt to book a Covid test for a symptomatic child mt sinai with its “sold out” eventbrite page wins the prize for most ridiculous.— Kalli Anderson (@kallipearl) October 6, 2020
What an utter disgrace @fordnation
However an assessment centre is taking appointment requests and registrations, availability appears incredibly limited right now. In several cases, booking modules can't even be accessed.
"We're sorry — we have reached the daily registration limit at our COVID-19 Assessment Centre for today," reads the website for Women's College Hospital.
"Online registration opens every day at 6 a.m. We accept 600 registrations per day. Please try again tomorrow."
"Sorry, there are currently no appointments available to be booked online at the Branson Assessment Centre," reads North York General Hospital's website.
"Continue to self-isolate and check back tomorrow for an appointment on Sat. Oct 10 or go to your nearest emergency department if your symptoms worsen."
Ontario now has a 100% appointment-based covid-19 testing system. A look at Women's College Hospital, a big test site in Toronto, shows the problems.— Patricia Treble (@PatriciaTreble) October 4, 2020
1. It isn't taking more applications today, even for future days
2. Time from application to result: up to 7 days, maybe more pic.twitter.com/dG0uZpLiZT
Overall, people seem to be find the process of booking a COVID-19 test annoying, if even possible at all.
"Nothing inspires confidence like trying to book a COVID test appointment for my kid on EVENTBRITE, then scrambling through each hospital website to find availability," wrote one Toronto resident.
"Why is there no central booking?! It is confusing to say the least and not accessible."
The most-common advice on hospital websites so far suggests that people with symptoms of COVID-19 should check back often for availabilities (and that, obviously, if you are severely ill, you should go to an Emergency Room.)
Those without symptoms can hit up a pharmacy for a test, if they are so inclined, and will also need to make an appointment.
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