Wrong number, says nurse

Dial three digits on a cellphone and you can talk to a BC nurse who knows all about aches, bumps and odd-looking spots.

Dial three digits on a cellphone and you can talk to a BC nurse who knows all about aches, bumps and odd-looking spots.

Unfortunately, they are useless when it comes to diagnosing problems with your NMI Mobility cellphone bill.

On its June 22nd bill, NMI gives customers two call options for help: Call 1-800-268-7049 or 811 from your cellular phone.

Trouble is, 811 is the territory’s new health line — it connects you with a nurse in BC.

It’s confused some cellphone customers who’ve tried to pay their bill, Visa in hand.

And, as we discovered, it’s puzzled the BC nurse on the other end of the phone.

“Is this NMI Mobility?”

“I’m sorry?” said the nurse.

“Is this the phone company?”

“You’ve reached the BC nurse line,” she said.

“So we can’t pay our phone bill?”

“We don’t do that, I think you’ve got the wrong number,” said the nurse.

811 is double-booked, said NMI Mobility supervisor Jason Rivest.

“It’s a bit of a blip,” added Chris McNutt, marketing manager for Northwestel Wireless Inc.

  “But it’s not an insignificant blip and we’ll be taking due diligence to make sure everyone’s aware that it’s no longer the channel to contact NMI mobility.”

However, a 1-800 call to an NMI operator Tuesday proved just as confusing as the 811 call to the BC nurse.

“Does calling 811 to pay an NMI cellphone bill still work?”

“811 will just transfer you to here,” said the NMI operator.

So we tried.

We got a pleasant nurse in BC.

“So you want to talk to a registered nurse?” said the operator.

NMI’s next bill will still feature the 811 option, added McNutt.

Every 811 call costs the Yukon government 82 cents a minute.

“It’s an oversight,” said McNutt. “Now we realize it’s through the system, but it still appears on our bill messaging.

“A little bit of diligence is required on our end, by all means.”

Until about a year ago, the three-digit code was a shortcut to Northwestel’s customer service.

And until last month, it could be used by NMI cell customers to pay bills.

“Over the years you used it to contact NMI mobility,” said McNutt.

But the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission ordered all telcos to vacate the 811 number by mid-2006.

“Eventually the plan is that 811 will be the health line all across the country,” said Health spokesperson Pat Living. Although right now, only the Yukon and Quebec are using it.

“Other jurisdictions that have health lines are using 10-digit numbers,” she said.

After the CRTC order in 2005, companies had six months to phase out use of 811.

“Northwestel undertook a huge concerted effort about 18 months ago to educate the public that 811 was no longer their customer service number and they now needed to call a different number,” said Living.

“It’s been out of play for one of our local phone companies — I don’t know why NMI Mobility would not have undertaken the same due diligence to start removing it at that point.”