COVID-19

Each crisis requires

creative solutions

The corona crisis demanded that companies take swift action and reaction in the way they operate and communicate. Belgium’s FPS for Public Health adjusted the automatic phone menu for the 1733 number, and CAW Oost-Brabant, the public welfare center in East-Brabant, took on a second 0800 number for use in penal institutions.

FPS Health updates automated menu 1733 to accommodate rush

Automated menu gives callers additional advice

1733, the national number for reaching an on-call doctor, has seen an unprecedented increase in calls ever since the COVID-19 lockdown. An update of the menu options was necessary. Proximus took care of the technical aspects at top speed. “As expected, the corona crisis has an impact on our activities,” explains Bert D’Alleine, Project Manager 1733 at the FPS Health. “During the first weekend of the lockdown, 26,522 calls came in, which is more than double the amount of what we usually receive. This put pressure on our capacity. The number of incoming calls remained high, which compelled us to update the menu options. This would have taken us five days, but thanks to Proximus’ flexibility, who realized the gravity and urgency of the situation, everything was arranged almost immediately.” Automated menu update “We asked to integrate an extra option into the menu,” Bert continues. “Even before the caller inserts the standard details, they receive a message that advises them to contact their family doctor, should they not have done so beforehand. If not, they will be asked to press 1, which ends the call. Partly thanks to this, we succeeded in reducing the number of calls processed by our employees to half the amount. This is still more than usual, but notably less than during the first onrush.”

1733 forms part of the 112 telephone exchange The 1733 number which helps callers to reach an on-call doctor is generally known and established, but it is less known that, in most cases, this number is housed at the 112 exchange. “This enables us to easily switch, depending on the nature of the situation,” Bert explains. “For the sake of completeness, I have to add that this centralization of the numbers has not been completed everywhere,” Bert continues. “In those other cases, the 1733 number is directly connected to the out-of-hours services. For the most part, the caller first inserts their details, for example the language of choice and postal code. We see this automated menu as our robot. Making use of this system helps us to offer the right care faster.”

“DURING THE FIRST WEEKEND OF THE LOCKDOWN 26,522 CALLS CAME IN, WHICH IS MORE THAN DOUBLE THE AMOUNT OF WHAT WE USUALLY RECEIVE.”

Bert D'Alleine


The Federal Public Service - Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment is the responsibility of 4 authorized ministers and, in the first place, of the Health Minister.

Inmates can contact CAW temporarily on a 0800 number

0800 number replaces visits to penitentiaries

Previously, inmates who wanted to talk could converse with a CAW employee on the spot. Ever since the lockdown, no physical contact has been allowed, which abruptly ended those conversations. A 0800 number was offered as a solution. “Because of the preventive measures against corona, our activities in detention centers could no longer take place,” explains Sofie Similon, Network Manager of CAW East-Brabant. “Inmates who wanted to talk to someone could do so easily, by requesting a conversation with a team member present at the prison. For the time being, this is no longer possible. That is why we came up with the 0800 number as a temporary solution.” A second 0800 number In this respect, we already had a 0800 number at CAW, but we liked to keep that one separate from our activities at the prison. All things considered, this a special audience and they are helped by a select group of people. I asked Proximus quite simply if it was possible to provide a second 0800 number and the answer was clear. A few days later, this second number was available.”

Centrum Algemeen Welzijn (CAW) helps people with their questions and problems concerning welfare.There are 11 CAWs dotted throughout Flanders and Brussels.

The right contact person via a detailed redirecting system The 0800-number is connected via a VMS system with a complete configuration and options for redirecting. “When an inmate calls, they insert the code of their detention center,” explains Sofie. “That way, they are redirected to the right contact, who is familiar with the facility in question.” A good alternative during strikes “Sometimes the line is overloaded, which can be seen as a good sign. This means that a lot of people have found their way to this number. Maybe we keep this number even after the corona crisis? It could be a good alternative in times when actual conversations in the prisons are not possible, during a strike for example.”

“THE INMATE WILL BE REDIRECTED TO THE RIGHT COLLEAGUE, ONE WHO IS FAMILIAR WITH THE FACILITY IN QUESTION.”

Sofie Similon


ADVANTAGES OF A 0800 NUMBER:

  1. Fast rollout (in less than 48 hours)
  2. Calling in is free of charge
  3. Easily accessible
  4. No automated menu
  5. Always a response

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