Coronavirus: Chaotic scene at Newmarket COVID-19 vaccination site prompts change

After a chaotic scene unfolded at a Newmarket COVID-19 vaccination site on this week, local officials came together to pinpoint what went wrong and how to fix it.

On Thursday, seniors over the age of 80 attempted to get their vaccinations at the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex. Instead, many endured lengthy waits in bone-chilling temperatures.

“There had to be hundreds lined up outside,” recalled 84-year-old Crawford Heritage.

He accompanied his wife to her appointment that day. For at least half an hour, he said she waited in the cold. The couple arrived the prescribed 10 minutes before her scheduled shot.

Read more: Ford government aims to have all eligible Ontarians receive 1st COVID-19 vaccine shot by June 20

“She should not have been in that cold that length of time.”

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His wife’s appointment was supposed to take place at 2:40 p.m.

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“I asked the fellow at the door, I said, ‘What’s happening here to appointments?’” he recalled.

“I said it’s 2:40 right now. He said, ‘We’re disregarding all appointments and we’re letting anyone and everyone in.’”

When he inquired about the wait, he said he was told anywhere from four to five hours. Unable to withstand the blistering conditions any longer, they went home.

Read more: Seniors line up at York Region COVID-19 vaccination site, families express relief

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor was in a regional budget meeting when word began to trickle down about the excessive lineups and and delays.

“My mind thought of those seniors and what they were enduring. I thought, ‘That’s where I should be,” he told Global News on Friday.

Taylor said he left the meeting and went straight to the complex.

“I was with a woman who was probably in her late 80s, walking around with her, trying to find her husband outside. Neither of them had cellphones.”

Southlake Regional Health Centre, which oversees the site, said it was a combination of factors that led to the disarray.

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Read more: Toronto, Peel Region moving to grey lockdown restrictions under Ontario’s COVID-19 framework

Speaking to Global News, Gayle Seddon apologized on behalf of her team to the entire community, adding their goal is to help.

The director of community programs for Southlake Regional Health Centre said one issue they were faced with was not enough staff on site. Many were brought in on Friday from the Town of Newmarket, to help direct vaccine recipients.

“The other thing we had happen yesterday was the electronic system that loads information up wasn’t working for us,” she said.

Seddon said issued a reminder to those with scheduled appointments to arrive 10 minutes beforehand.

She said they are also in the process of contacting residents who missed appointments on Thursday in order to re-book them.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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