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You can now book LifeLabs appointments on Bowen

While appointment booking has been a mainland staple for a while, the mobile nature of Bowen's service has meant it's been drop-in only until this week
Woman in a medical gown in front of BIIH
LifeLabs technician Aashima Parti visits Bowen Island every Tuesday and Thursday to conduct medical testing. Until this week, the service was drop-in only but now islanders can book appointments online or over the phone.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, a winding queue emerges from Bowen Island Integrated Health’s (BIIH) clinic front. Masked islanders stand in six-foot intervals, in sleet or snow, rain or shine, waiting for their turns with the LifeLabs technician for blood or other medical testing.

Now, LifeLabs and BIIH are hoping to do something about that lineup. LifeLabs launched appointment booking for its Bowen Island service this week. 

While appointment booking has been in place at mainland locations for some time, the mobile nature of Bowen’s service has limited its amenities until now. 

But with COVID-19 restrictions requiring outdoor waiting and the seasons changing, appointment booking gained importance. 

“To reduce lineups, wait times, and help keep as many people as possible out of the cold and rain, some of our locations will be temporarily operating as appointment centres,” said LifeLabs’ media relations. 

One can book an appointments for oneself or a family member online or by calling 1-800-431-7206.

“Services will be escalated to accommodate customers who are elderly, vulnerable or immunocompromised who require urgent tests when they arrive,” said LifeLabs media relations. “If the facility has reached its max capacity for the day, we will offer the customer the option to book an appointment for another day.”

While the pre-booking only allows for a few appointments a day for now, with the rest of the patrons drop-ins, as the technician familiarizes herself with the system, there’s the potential to adapt to Bowen’s demand. LifeLabs can see more than 30 people over a two-hour stint on Bowen (6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. though they start shutting things down by 8:20 a.m. to be able to process the samples). 

“We have found [the appointments] model has allowed us to serve more patients in a day,” said LifeLabs media relations. “[We] want to thank our customers for their patience and support as our teams continue to work diligently to support the communities in which we serve, and the health care system in response to this urgent public health care crisis,” 

Gregory Smith, co-owner of BIIH, has worked with LifeLabs for more than a year to improve service on Bowen.  “In the in the short-term, we weren’t able to push for more hours quite yet, because they didn’t have the stats of how many people were going and the different components of that but we were able to push for online bookings so that people don’t have to stand outside in the rain,” he said. Smith hopes that if LifeLabs sees the demand on Bowen, it’ll allow for longer hours on-island. 

Smith has seen the LifeLabs queue skirt around the stairs to Village Square, around First Credit Union all the way to the Beer and Wine Cellar. He recommends people be waiting by 6:30 a.m. to be guaranteed service.

With online booking, that’s hopefully going to change.  “This is a big push to try and say, ‘Okay, well, if you can’t see anything online that’s bookable, then it’s probably going to be at least nine or 10 people in front of you, so just be aware of that,” said Smith.