New and upgraded Eye Van visits Manitoulin

In photo is the new and upgraded Medical Mobile Eye Care Unit (the Eye Van) that was in Gore Bay last week as part of a visit the unit and eye care staff is making to Manitoulin Island.

MANITOULIN – The new and upgraded Medical Mobile Eye Care Unit (the Eye Van) made its way to the Town of Gore Bay last week and will visit three more Manitoulin communities in the next couple of weeks when its six-month trip across Northern Ontario concludes. The new and improved unit provides more space, privacy for patients and staff, is fully accessible and its new computer network is designed to communicate with local health teams.

“The Medical Eye Care Unit kicked off its 2019 Northern Ontario tour on March 25 in Englehart with a brand new unit,” said Lisa O’Bonsawin, CHRP manager of Mobile Eye Care Unit with the CNIB, late last week. “The new unit is larger and is all on one level-providing more accessible space and offering patients more privacy, including a private screening room to review health records with a nurse. In addition, the Eye Van is equipped with modern technology to improve internet connectivity and network capabilities, allowing doctors to view test results on monitors in real time, instead of waiting for print copies and will have greater capacity to better serve patients. For example, a new generator increases our ability to serve communities.”

“It has been a wonderful launch of the new unit,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin. “We are proud of the new unit and everything it provides.”

“We are very grateful for the partnership we have with service clubs all over the Island, and the continued support Manitoulin Transport and NATT provides,” continued Ms. O’Bonsawin. “The support we receive from health care providers, diabetes programs, clinics and health centres and hospitals, Lions Clubs and community volunteers, and the ophthalmologists on the Eye Van.”

“Our ophthalmologists are so appreciative of visiting Manitoulin Island and being able to work with health care providers there,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin. “It is important to acknowledge that it really takes the full community level of support and care to provide this service.”

Each year the Eye Van visits 30 communities across Northern Ontario. This year, the Eye Van will complete their tour in Little Current on October 25, 2019 (with stops in Mindemoya October 15-18 and Wiikwemkoong October 21-22).

The Eye Van was launched in 1972 as part of the Prevention of Blindness program running in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. There are 25 opthalmologists that work with the Eye Van which serves close to 4,500 patients as it travels more than 6,000 kilometres in Northern Ontario. A complement of three staff members spend almost nine months of the year on the road.
The eye van is a 15 metre-long vehicle operated by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, replacing an older van. The older version of the Eye Van was a bit smaller and had a goose neck in the entrance which impeded some of the van’s patients, especially those with mobility issues.

The new van is similar to a medical office, so the hallways, the room, the mobility, the access for wheelchair patients, the access to all the medical equipment is all available to patients.

Ms. O’Bonsawin noted the van is fully equipped for diagnostics, minor surgical procedures and laser surgeries. 

“This is our 47th year with the Eye Van,” Ms. O’Bonsawin added.