Millroy: LifeLabs and COVID-19 Vaccinations


My column for this week was all set in my mind; I was going to criticize LifeLabs for the long lines and long waits for those requiring blood work.

But before I pumped a word into this computer, I happened to see on television even longer lines of people waiting outside in freezing temperatures to receive their first COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Canadian Press reported that dozens of residents of Richmond Hill aged 80 and older lined up outside the Richmond Green Sports Centre in the cold, paperwork in hand for their immunization appointments. Many were leaning on walkers or sitting in wheelchairs, bundled up against the -8 C weather.

Patrick Casey, director of corporate communications for York Region, said the municipality was aware of the long lines at Richmond Green and acted to ensure that they would not occur again.

“Enhancements have been made indoors to allow more space for COVID-19 screening,” said Casey, who acknowledged that people over 80 may need additional time and support to complete the vaccination process.

Casey also said that additional staff had been allocated to the centre to help speed up the screening and check-in process.

The Canadian Press reported on similar situation in Newmarket, people lined up around the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex, some waiting for at least three hours.

The lineup included Valary Lyall King and her grand-daughter Alexis who said their experience was anything but pleasant.

“The first two hours were outside, and then you did one hour in a sardine hallway, no distancing, no sanitation, no security, and then you did the half an hour in on the rink which is where you get the vaccine,” says Alexis

“It’s freezing. We are dressed warm, but not for this.”

In a release, Southlake Regional Health Centre, which oversees the Twinney site, addressed the long lines and wait times, saying, “We recognize that this is a long line for seniors to wait in, and we apologize for that. we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through this. Early this morning, we experienced some system and process issues resulting in delays as we opened the vaccination centre, which continues to cause long lines.”

Southlake says they have opened a second arena where there is seating for those who are waiting. They are also adding more staff and security to help move people through more quickly.

Luckily it seemed the first day went far better in the Sault.

Front-line healthcare providers got needles put in their arms in the concourse of GFL Memorial Gardens starting last Friday.

Saultonline reported that the Algoma Ontario Health Team’s COVID-19 Community Vaccine Hub, working in partnership with Algoma Public Health, administered more than 500 vaccinations to long-term care staff and essential caregivers that first day with a total of 1,301 scheduled appointments through to Sunday.

“Planning for this community-wide vaccination hub has been under way for some time and has involved input and collaboration from many local healthcare partners,” said Erik Landriault, Director of Integrated Care at the Algoma Ontario Health Team. “The tremendous success of this first day is a testament to the tireless dedication and commitment of our community’s healthcare providers.”

So, with the first two centres seemingly cleaning up their act and the Sault a success, does this clear my mind of what is going on at LifeLabs?

Not a chance.

The long lines and long waits have been going on for a long time with no sign that anyone is even making an attempt to shorten either.

The only thing that I can see that has changed in the clinic at Cambrian Mall is that those waiting for blood work can at least now wait inside.

The last time my wife Barbara had it done, just prior to Christmas, I stood outside in the cold for her but it wasn’t the hour and 20 minutes that she stood inside last week.
That long a wait is ridiculous, especially for some seniors as there is no place to sit. My wife said she wasn’t the oldest person in line and she is 87.

I am not sure what the problem is, whether those manning the needles just aren’t efficient or whether more are needed. If more are needed, I say to LifeLabs, get them, and then reopen the clinic in the Doctor’s Building on Queen Street.

In any event, I see it as incumbent on LifeLabs to provide a more comfortable environment for those requiring their services, and this includes for the young as well as the old.
I think it is something our elected politicians, both local and provincial, could do us all a service by investigating.

With this in mind, although I am very happy that things went so well here with the Covid vaccinations, I am going to pass on an observation regarding the premises chosen presented to me by Jack Denneny..

Those getting those first doses were all able-bodied. When it comes to vaccinating seniors, many will not be able to navigate the stairs to the concourse, which is essentially on the upper floor. Denney wonders if the elevators be able to handle the numbers adequately?
He suggested the Armoury would have been a better place to handle the clinics, since the drill hall is on ground level and there is good parking. Also, it would not interrupt the daily exercise routine of those who use the concourse of the Gardens for walking.

The Armoury has not been available for public use for some time but I thought Denneny made a good point.

Surely a site at ground level with good parking access, such as the former Walmart site at Station Mall, would have been a better choice than the Memorial Gardens.


  1. Why not use Tim Hortens drive thru to vaccinate people .You could order your double double and a needle prick plus maybe win a free coffee.

  2. My wife and I got our COVID vaccination yesterday. It was a well run operation. From the time we arrived there were guides to show us the way, including the elevator to get up to the concourse (no walking upstairs), screening stations and vaccinator tables. The tables were set up in each section at the Gardens and we were easily directed to the section we should go to. There were virtually no lineups and from the time we parked till we got back to the car was less than 30 minutes including the mandatory 15 minute wait time after our shot. I attribute the lack of lineups to the fact that people were instructed not to arrive before 5 minutes prior to their appointment. Hats off to the APH.

  3. The Appointment system for our Covid Shots leaves a lot of work undone. I dialed the phone number to get an appointment for this week-end but I never got through after redialing every 30 seconds for 4 hours. I felt like I was a hungry wolf fighting other wolves for the meat of a dead carcass. When I went on-line there was 1 opening but before I could press my computer button it was gone.
    If I call my Doctor or Dentist for an appointment I get a call back when there is an opening.
    Algoma Public Health has to make it easier to get an appointment for my Covid shot.
    After I call A.P.H. for an appointment they should call me back when it is my turn for the shot.
    They used to do it for my Annual Flu shot and it worked fine.
    I am an 87 year old disabled man struggling to stay home and A.P.H. is not helping.

  4. Common sense is lacking eh. I was thinking the same thing about the stairs for my 87 yea old mother… why isn’t it downstairs. Wh6 aren5 our pharmacy being utizlied for the vaccination?

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