Private app company staffing vaccine sites in Peel, Sudbury

By Allison Smith March 31, 2021

BookJane, a software firm that describes itself as a “gig economy” platform for the health-care sector, has partnered with Sudbury and the Region of Peel to staff their mass immunization clinics with doctors.

The tech firm says it has already “mobilized” more than 300 doctors through its app, which requires them to enter their College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario credentials, create a profile outlining their specialities and upload a photo of themselves before they can start booking shifts.

Curtis Khan, BookJane’s founder and CEO, says docs on the app are already administering vaccines at seven sites in Peel. The tech firm’s partnership with Sudbury kicks off tomorrow.

Physicians on the app are eager for shifts, which often get snapped up in seconds, Khan told Queen’s Park Today in a phone interview.

Doctors are paid $170 per hour, or $220 hourly on evenings and weekends, to administer vaccines at sites run by hospitals or public health units, according to a recent Ministry of Health bulletin.

Scheduling physicians through BookJane “really helps on the deployment” of vaccines, Khan said.

Utilizing the app is relatively low cost. The firm charges PHUs between $350 and $650 per month for each vaccination site it staffs; the price declines as more sites are added.

In total, Peel public health says its contract with the firm was $94,000 for this calendar year, which will cover the cost of staffing up to 10 sites, plus a one-time implementation fee.

“We are working with hundreds of physicians and the product works well at that scale,” a Peel official told Queen’s Park Today.

However, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called it “troubling” that public health units are relying on a tech app to recruit doctors. The PCs had months to amass “an army of people” to dole out vaccines, Horwath told reporters. “I think the government should have had its act together.”

Khan wants to get all of Ontario’s 34 PHUs on board and then go national. He says the price won’t go up if he achieves this.

“We’re really here to help with the crisis,” he said, adding that the province has “paid zero attention to us.”

‘Uberizing’ care
BookJane got its start in 2016 with plans to “Uberize home care” by allowing recipients to book service providers on their own through an app.

Since then it has pivoted to long-term care, where it boasts a workforce of 20,000 people, including registered practical nurses, PSWs and cleaners, who use the app to book their shifts in LTCs across the province.

The for-profit long-term care sector has bought into the technology. BookJane partnered with the Ontario Long Term Care Association in January and has received investment capital from Revera and Amica Mature Lifestyles Inc., according to Khan.

While the doctors administering vaccines are scheduled through the app, they are paid by public health units, Khan said. BookJane’s system is different for LTCs: if an app user is employed by an LTC home, they get their pay through there, but if they are employed as a BookJane contractor, the tech firm pays them while taking a 25 per cent cut of their hourly wage.

Most contractors already have full-time jobs, Khan explained, and use the app to pick up extra shifts like an Uber driver would.

Crestview Strategy registered to lobby the province on BookJane’s behalf in October. More recently Goran Samuel Pesic of Samuel Associates Inc. has been consulting for the tech firm.

In last week’s budget, the province said it planned to address job retention issues in the LTC sector by leveraging “innovative approaches to work and technology.”

The Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for comment.