SUDBURY — The medical mobile eye care unit for vision loss rehabilitation known as the Eye Van will soon be visiting Manitoulin Island on their annual tour. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the program.
“We are very excited to celebrate the Eye Van’s 50th anniversary this year,” said Lisa O’Bonsawin, General Manager of the Eye Van. “We are so grateful to the many people, including dozens of dedicated ophthalmologists, who have helped keep the Eye Van running over the years. In their own practice, getting through the pandemic has been challenging, but they have always helped provide ongoing service in the North.”
“And we’re grateful for everyone in the community who continues to support the program, from healthcare providers, Lions clubs, businesses like Manitoulin Transport, and the many volunteers who help each year. The fact that they are making a difference in the lives of others during these challenging times is overwhelming,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin.
Operated by Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada, the Eye Van is a mobile medical clinic that provides eye care services in northern Ontario communities where ophthalmic services are not readily available. With the dedication of 25 participating ophthalmologists and funding from the Ontario Department of Health, the Eye Van travels more than 4,000 miles each year to serve nearly 4,500 patients throughout Northern Ontario.
Established in 1972 as part of the Blindness Prevention Program in partnership with Ontario’s ophthalmologists and surgeons, the Eye Van began as a humble camper equipped with equipment to perform eye exams and provide essential treatments. Today the Eye Van is a full truck trailer equipped with the latest medical technology to perform thorough eye exams and offer a wide range of treatments including minor eye surgeries. It is also fully wheelchair accessible and equipped with WiFi access.
One thing that has never changed is the goal of the Eye Van’s annual tour: to help people in northern Ontario communities prevent vision loss and improve their eye health through early detection and treatment of eye diseases. In fact, nearly 90 percent of patients who visit the Eye Van continue to be monitored by Eye Van ophthalmologists for eye conditions that, if left untreated, can lead to blindness.
“It is estimated that about 75 percent of vision loss is preventable and many common eye diseases can be treated if caught early,” Ms O’Bonsawin said. “The Eye Van is a critical path to vision for people in communities in northern Ontario where this type of care simply isn’t readily available.”
Ms O’Bonsawin said: “We encourage people to see their doctor if they would like a referral to the Eye Care Van to schedule appointments.”
The Eye Van tour will culminate in Little Current on October 5-7 and the Eye Van will also visit Wiikwemkoong on October 3-4 and will be in Gore Bay on September 26-30.