No service in sight

Ministry claims equipment service requirements being met

According to B.C.'s Ministry of Human Resources, a requirement to provide emergency telephone service is being fulfilled by companies that receive government contracts to sell and service mobility equipment for persons with disabilities.

When contacted, Mike Long, Communications Manager for MHR, said the ministry contract requires that companies must provide an emergency number, but not same-day emergency service.

If a client calls in on a Friday evening to a company's emergency phone number, and the company gets back to them on Monday, Long said the company is fulfilling the contract.

When told that almost no companies provided any emergency service, Long said it depends on what you mean by 'emergency service.'

"Just as long as they've got that number that clients can access, they're fulfilling the requirements of the contract," he said.

The government contract states, under a list of mandatory criteria: "Contractor must provide Ministry clients with toll-free, 24-hour emergency telephone service."

Long said, "According to the contract, contracted companies are expected to provide a toll-free number so that their clients can report a problem so that the contractor can get back to them."

"There's not the expectation that the contractor staff the emergency service line. They have to have a line but don't have to have someone there answering the phone."

Long also said the service is required and companies get paid to provide it. "If they're not providing the service, they are in violation of their contract," he said. "If they're not providing the service, and there are complaints, then actions are taken."

But according to the Ministry, he said, "All terms of the contract are being followed." He said, "All the information we have says the service is being provided as per the contract."

He said if companies want to go over and above the contract by offering immediate or same-day service in addition to the number, "then all the power to them." He said that this was up to the provider.

He said that if a client called, they shouldn't expect an immediate response. He said if clients "want gold-plated service," they should find a company that offered it. "It's the provider's role, not the Ministry's," he said. He said it was "too bad" if a company felt obligated to change their policy, as in the case of Motion Specialties.

He said the purpose of the 24-hour emergency telephone number was, "If you want your name to be first on the cue" for the next business day.

He said the contract was worded the way it was to avoid ambiguity.

The contract offer also states that if the equipment is under warranty, the company has five days to repair it, or 15 days for electronics. The minimum warranty is two years and covers all repairs. During the warranty, the contractor is expected to provide "suitable loaner equipment" while repairs are being conducted.

After the warranty expires, the company needs authorization before performing repairs. The contract appears to say nothing about loaner equipment after the warranty.

When was asked how a company gets authorization to provide service and a loaner chair on a Friday night, Long said we would have to ask the contractor.

"It's at the contractor's risk," he said about making service calls and providing loaner chairs without approval. However, "If they're providing a backup manual chair, that's not going to cost them anything in effect," he said.

— Paul Gowan


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