A lineup of frustrated and tired seniors, waiting to get their COVID-19 vaccines, snaked outside the downtown convention centre Friday afternoon because of a computer glitch that affected staffing.
A Winnipeg woman who accompanied her elderly mother said the clinic snafu could end up being a super-spreader event for the virus.
Katherine Dowle, and her 82-year-old mother Marjorie, went to the clinic about 20 minutes before the 12:20 p.m. appointment, and unexpectedly encountered hundreds of seniors standing close together in a long line which snaked back and forth throughout the building.
After waiting in line for two hours, and being told it would be another two hours before they got to the front for the vaccine, they left.
"My mom is crying," said Dowle. "This is the first time she has been out in a year and now she feels like she is going to be stressing for the next 14 days that one of us might have got COVID there — and she didn't even get the damn vaccine."
Dowle, who hasn't been vaccinated, but has a medical condition that puts her in the high-risk group, said she worries she could have picked up the virus while there. She said there was only one accessible washroom for the seniors on the first floor, there was a long lineup for the washroom, and no one was cleaning it.
All the wheelchairs on site were being used. Seniors, many of whom use canes, were forced to stand in line for hours and didn't have a place to sit down, Dowle said.
"This is just shameful what is happening to these poor elderly people," she said. "What I just witnessed was something that almost brought me to tears.
"These people are suffering and putting up with it in an attempt to get their vaccine so they don't get sick and die. I definitely feel exposed - and I took a vacation day for this. And I'm worried about all those elderly people.
"This is a COVID super-spreader event waiting to happen."
Public health blamed the snafu on a technical glitch that caused the clinic to be shortstaffed.
Manitoba's acting deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Jazz Atwal, said the delays were the culmination of having a large number of people booked in for appointments and an issue related to "staff scheduling software."
"The staffing system issue led to a shortage of staff at the site today. As soon as the issue was identified, the team began reaching to bring additional staff on site," Atwal said.
"We know that some patients are waiting beyond their time of their appointment, and we apologize for that."
On Tuesday, the clinic also had significant delays after a new vaccine delivery model was piloted on the third floor of the facility.
Dowle said she called the province's COVID tip line to alert them to investigate whether the clinic officials should be ticketed and fined for the mess-up.
"If this was Walmart, they definitely would have been fined," she said.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.