Frustration mounts as HPB's appointment booking system for free tracker down for third day

The Health Promotion Board is providing a free tracker to those who are signing up for the first time for the challenge. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Some participants of the sixth season of the National Steps Challenge have been left frustrated after being unable to book an appointment to collect their free steps tracker for three days.

Those eligible to get a tracker this season, which began on Oct 1, can collect the wearable device from collection points that include certain Singapore Post outlets, community clubs and Safra buildings.

However, on Sunday (Oct 10), the Health Promotion Board (HPB) said on Facebook that its system for booking and management of appointments on the Healthy 365 app was unavailable due to technical difficulties.

Checks by ST revealed the system was still down as at 9.30pm on Wednesday, and there were more than 800 comments - mostly from frustrated participants - on HPB's Facebook post.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, HPB said there have been issues with loading, display and slow response.

"Upon discovering the technical errors, we have immediately disabled the booking system and started our rectification and testing process."

"We understand that this has caused some inconvenience to those who wish to collect the HPB fitness trackers to participate in the challenge, and we hope to restore the appointment system as soon as possible," the board added.

Registration and participation in the challenge through the Healthy 365 mobile app, as well as other app functions, remain unaffected, it added.

HPB is providing a free tracker to those who are signing up for the first time for the challenge.

Participants of past seasons who did not collect a tracker in the previous season, or who completed all six "Steps Rewards" tiers in previous seasons, are also eligible for the wearable device.

Among the irate respondents on HPB's Facebook announcement was Petrus Tan, who wrote on Wednesday afternoon: "Health Promotion Board, Singapore I have been trying constantly since Monday and still under maintenance. This already exceeds 48 hours after your scheduled maintenance and is still not up."

In a comment on Monday, Mig Chan questioned why, given the system outage, walk-in collections were not allowed.

He said he had visited a collection point, but was told by staff - who were "sitting and got nothing to do" - that they could not issue him the tracker on the spot.

HPB responded to his comment by apologising and saying walk-in collections were not allowed to adhere to safe management measures and to prevent crowding at distribution points.

Ms Serene Tan, 48, told ST that she has been trying unsuccessfully to book an appointment since Monday.

She said: "It is really a waste of my time. I go into the app every hour to check if it works. I hope they can improve the system so this does not happen again."

Ms Tan, an admin assistant who has been participating in the challenge since 2018, said this is the first time she has encountered such an issue.

She said she wanted the new tracker, as it has a sleep tracking function, unlike her current one, and it would allow her to participate in HPB's new sleep challenge.

This challenge rewards participants with 25 Healthpoints for clocking in at least seven hours of sleep a day.

Started in 2015, the National Steps Challenge rewards participants for completing steps with Healthpoints, which can be redeemed for vouchers that can be used at various supermarkets, retailers and eateries.

HPB and its trackers made headlines earlier this year after the Auditor-General's Office reported that the board had an excess of 268,000 fitness trackers in its inventory, valued at $4.26 million in total.

Following this discovery, HPB carried out a full stock count in January this year, which found that it actually had 341,000 excess trackers, valued at $5.39 million in total.

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