Pager Service Disruption Worries Quebec’s Rural Communities

Telus announced that it is canceling its pager service across Canada, effective March 31, 2015. This is cause for worry amongst some residents of Quebec’s rural communities according to CBC News.

Several anglophone coastline villages near Labrador, on Quebec’s Lower North Shore, do not have cellphone service. They rely on pagers to reach health-care workers and emergency responders. Without a pager system, according to Rowsell Roberts, volunteer firefighters and health-care workers would have to wait by the phone at home. Another group recommend using two-way radios — a 1950’s technology attempting to cure 21st century urgent messaging needs.

Pagers Are Obsolete

Fewer and fewer people are using pagers – the devices you hold in your hand – as time goes on. The number of pagers in use has been plummeting each year since their height in the mid-1990s. Nonetheless, as of 2013, about 161,500 Canadians still had paging service subscriptions, according to the CRTC’s most recent communications monitoring report. In the past, the two-way messaging pager would be a lifeline in the event of a major disaster. But now, not only will Telus shut off its remaining paging network soon — industry leaders Bell and Rogers are expected to do the same in the coming years. Soon Telus will be dropping pager service in B.C. and Alberta as well.

In comparison, the United States had, at one point,  an estimated 50 million pager users in the mid-1990’s. But U.S. telecom companies began halting service more than a decade ago. Users have moved over to employing a form of advanced pager replacement — an app on a smartphone, such as the OnPage Priority Messaging system. 

The Issue with Pagers

The problem with pagers is that there is no way for doctors to assess the urgency of a message from a standard page. The only item displayed is a phone number. As a result, there are delayed responses caused by health-care workers responding to non-emergency calls over their pagers. In life-or-death situations, this could spell disaster. In addition, there’s often no way for a nurse to know if a page reached its intended destination. A recent study at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital indicated that 14 per cent of pages sent at a particular facility, over a two-month period, were sent to the wrong person.

The Alternative: A “Pager” On Your Smartphone

Rural communities should consider an alternative solution to using obsolete pagers — secure  priority messaging or secure  priority alerts on a smartphone. The OnPage Priority Messaging system, for example, is one solution that works on both Wi-Fi and Cellular. Even if cell service were down in, say, a hospital, the user could still get the message over Wi-Fi. Additionally, OnPage has an audit trail – so you can track if your intended healthcare worker and emergency responder got the alert, when they received it, and when they read it. OnPage eliminates the need of carrying more than one device — everything is on your smartphone.

OnPage’s new release for 2015 includes the below feature – important to healthcare workers and emergency responders who need to be assured that they received the message.

  • Prioritized Messaging   (high priority or low priority)
  • Continuous Secure Messaging (back and forth)
  • On-Call Scheduling Management (for OnPage Enterprise users)
  • Ability to add pictures and voice-recording Attachments – to deepen meaning and understanding