TORONTO -- Telehealth Ontario is adding 1,300 phone lines and 130 nurses, as the government races to keep up with the rapid rise in demand from residents concerned about their health.

Amid the spread of COVID-19, residents were told to call Telehealth Ontario for an assessment from a health care provider before going to a hospital emergency room for a diagnosis.

However, the volume of calls quickly overwhelmed the system leading to long delays and dropped calls which public health officials called “unacceptable.”

On Wednesday, when the government attempted to bolster the system by adding 300 phone lines the entire operation crashed and residents were directed to their local public health units for an assessment.

“Everybody was shocked and troubled by the failure of Telehealth,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.

The Official Opposition Leader added that the call center was intended to help people determine next steps and divert unnecessary visits to the hospital.

It took several hours for the lines to be re-established on Wednesday, before the government added even more capacity to the system, which is operated by an independent third-party.

“We've added another 1,300 Telehealth lines to significantly increase capacity and better support you in getting answers to your COVID-19 questions,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

“Recognizing the increasing demand, we're working to add even more to further help reduce wait times.”

The government said another 130 nurses are being deployed to conduct symptom assessments specifically for people who request a call back.